Saturday, 6 June 2020

'Weave' by Jan Simpson

Moth larvae are boiled alive in their cocoons so that the fibres can be spun together to create silk.  Incubator and coffin in one.  Sometimes, life is arrested in situ.  I fashioned a wedding gown as best I could but when I said we’d need a workshop just for all my sewing machines I could see it strained your patience.

My unravelling began at the altar.  A hangnail on the second finger of your right hand snagged the lace of my sleeve.  That first thread was my ambition.  Once the vows were cast and the ring was on my finger, as your hand returned to your pocket, the thread snapped and fell between the mottled flags.

That honeymoon night I swung high in the orchard, you brought out your mother’s crocheted shawl to stay the chill but as I jumped from the swing the thread of my dignity caught on a splinter and I dangled like a pendulum, my nose grazing the dark mulch.

Twelve weeks later the threads in my womb were too weak to bear the weight of a life and they flooded out.  Even your jacquard sheets couldn’t net them.  The mattress drank the stain.

You labour over a parterre, a shrubbery and a rose garden.  We play hide and seek among the bees and watch butterflies adorn the budlea but a thorn tears into what hope I have left and all I can see are the weeds.

Treadle looms are delivered.  One for every abandoned nursery.  I cast out mahogany cribs and crowd out the silence of never wound cot mobiles with the rattle of bobbins and shuttles. I weave a nest full of eggs and a four-poster bed.  I weave a fox who eats the eggs and a bridge to the other side but they all lack the tensile strength to support us both and I tumble among the river weeds, salmon pulsing between my thighs on their way to maternity wards upstream.  You ache for a salmon but no matter how expensive the rod, the reel or the flies, the equipment is always faulty and the silver slips away. 

So, I begin at Christmas, just a little every night, drafting the fibres from the sole of my foot and up around my ankle bone, twisting them around the shaft of a low-whorl spindle.  It seems polite to return to the chapel before beginning on my left arm, rings falling to the stone floor, precious stones returned to rock.

Spring unfurls and I have wound from the spindle onto a netting needle then looped and tied until the final stop-knot.  I wait now, to be slung across your back, until your rod bends taut with the take and you dip me, agape, to net your catch and hold it aloft, your trophy, condemned among my knotted threads.

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'Weave' was published in Causeway/Cabhsair in December 2019.

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