Cuts of Cloth

Nov 10, 2018

Today’s poem is “Cuts of Cloth” by Elizabeth Tibbetts. Her book In the Well won the Bluestem Poetry Award. She has a new book Say What You Can forthcoming from Deerbrook Editions. Elizabeth is a nurse who lives in Hope.

She writes, “One winter day, venison stew was simmering on the stove and I was sewing Christmas stockings for my grandchildren and remembering my great-aunts teaching me to sew when I was a kid. Fat flakes of snow were falling and a few crows landed in our Golden Delicious apple tree. It was dream-like, as though I’d fallen into the past where I never imagined winter and deep snow would become endangered.”

Cuts of Cloth
by Elizabeth Tibbetts

While onion, allspice, and the last of a doe
stew on the stove, I pause at my machine—
watch three crows descend through snow to feed
on golden apples still hung on the tree—then
stitch a black bird to the top of an evergreen.
The wheel turns. Wind blows. The needle rises
and falls. Snow falls. Crows dip their beaks.
I sew. My old maiden aunts, who showed me
the way through cuts of cloth with scissors,
needle, pins, and thread, who left long ago,
hover near in their thick-heeled shoes back
in time when winters were intact: roses buried,
and two feet of snow on the roof. They take
turns at the treadle, their hands guiding cloth,
which piece by piece transforms flat yardage
into shapes: felt stocking, lined coat, smocked
blouse. In a few months they’ll open the house,
pause on the porch, and smell the sweet, indecent
scent of the ground thawing. For now, they keep
a pot of something hot on the stove, sew, sew,
and throw bread and apple peels out for the hungry
crows that flock in from the back woods, where
boughs are so tightly woven wind can’t find its way.

Poem copyright © Elizabeth Tibbetts.