The Seamstress

When she thinks of what is the one constant
   in her life, she thinks of the stitch. The way
the needle punctures the cloth and sets

the thread. She remembers, when she saw
   the Singer machine at her grandmother's
house, the woman with the cloudy eyes,

the black gap in her mouth, the woman who
   told stories of the witches by the bridge,
of the specters by the side of country roads

who suckled on the blood of humans, of serpents
   who swallowed whole sugar cane cutters asleep
under the shade of the framboyans and mameys,

the woman whose face appears in the wrinkles
   of the material she now sews together. She
loves the hum and vibrations of the machine's

motor, making the stitching the constant clatter
   much like the sound of the women of her childhood
beating and cleaning the rice in the hot morning

sun. She is alone now, the mother of a child
   grown and gone from home, married with
children of his own. She is here in Hialeah,

alone in the three-bedroom apartment her late
   husband, three months in the grave, worked
alongside her, so hard for. They came to Los

Angeles in 1974, and from that beginning
   the constant she depended on was the sound
of an overlap machine stitching zippers to denim

pants, piecemeal, piecemeal--the pay never
   going higher than ten cents per piece. What comfort
is the sound of this machine her husband bought

for her. He knew what sewing means to her,
   the kind of disappearance involved into her
childhood. Here she is, a widow, far from her

country of birth, far from her sisters and brothers.
   Her father still alive, her mother in the ground,
and quite suddenly she feels the urge to laugh,

laugh at how time weaves itself into the intricacies
   of the spirit, of the heart--she is planning a return
to the island of her birth, but first she will finish

this dress for her oldest granddaughter, a child
   born in this country, speaking no other language
than the language of her birth place. What joy

the fabric, the lace as it moves under her fingers, 
   the dress almost finished, she will wear it, become
the child in the photos, travel back to her country,

go through the empty rooms of an empty house,
   feel the heat of her birth place, hear the cries
of a child about to be born in 1938, San Pablo, Cuba.

:: Virgil Suarez, in Witness 12:2, 1998

No comments:

Post a Comment