by, Heather Keyser

(Both my mother and my mother’s mother introduced me to stiching– embroidering, mending/sewing, cross stitching, yarn hooking and quilting– when I was very young.  And my other grandmother introduced me to knitting and crocheting.  I haven’t done any of it for many years, but those skills still intrigue me, as do my grandmothers’/mother’s creations– sweaters, scarves, hats, doll clothes, embroidered pillowcases and dish towels– that I still own and use.  How do we bridge the gap from the past to the present?  How do we spend our time each day?  It’s not just that we can create beauty despite our pain or boredom.  It’s that our pain and boredom are actually the materials that become beautiful or useful when we put our artistic hands to them.)

Hold the needle

against your thumb

and pierce the linen,

in its hoop

like a drum.

Drag the yarn,

persimmon colored,

up and out of the fabric,

your hand arcing,

pulling a trail

as long and promising,

from here to there,

as the Golden Gate Bridge.

*       *       *

One year I commuted

between Marin and Santa Rosa,

an hour on the 101 each way,

every day,

merging into the

column of taillights moving

like a conveyor belt

through the dark mornings.

Hazed afternoons,

on the return,

my eyes stayed open,

but my soul closed down,

and the best parts of me seemed to blow

away through my car’s open windows.

I sat back, slack,

and while my foot

caused my car to roll on,

I wondered if there really was

such a thing as moving forward,

and what was my place in the world.

And then,

my dry eyes

saw something fresh

on the side of the road:

a flowering fruit tree,

growing stubby

and round and flecked

everywhere with fresh blossoms.

It burst through my boredom

with the shape and splendor

of yellow-gold fireworks.

And a vision

flashed in me

of the needlework

I might do to recreate

this rioting beauty,

blooming in the gully,

twelve feet from the traffic.

          I saw fabric,

          yarn (goldgreenblackbrownyellowgray)

          and varied light,

          and, in the tree’s

          greening branches,

          stitched by my own hands,

          I sensed the dark

          mystery of craft.


I had not embroidered anything

since I was a child or maybe

a young adult.

But that didn’t matter.

Now, through my

autopilot haze

I gently held onto this

wonder:  wherever

we find ourselves,

on whatever dulled road,

our hands can

stitch something up,

from deep within,

very old,

that is the shape of our shambles,

but sewn through

with gold.