Friday, August 21, 2020

Kumihimo: a Song of Weaving

 Silken threads, Crimson, gold, Fingers plucking Like a lute Makes music Of rich colour. Arpeggios In flowing gold Woven through Harmonies  In crimson, Fingers deftly Plaiting silence Into silken song.


One of my long-loved interests is working with textile creation. For me, to date, this has meant mostly handknitting and handspinning. However, weaving also fascinates me, though I have only done a little of it. Yesterday I discovered this video that thrilled my eyes and heart. So this morning I wrote a poem about it. Kumihimo is a traditional Japanese form of braiding, or plaiting. Threads are finger-woven to form cords, ribbons, and narrow strips of cloth for sashes and such. In the video, we can see the threads being gathered, braided, and then beaten tightly, row upon row, as the piece is formed on the bias to make a supple fabric. This video shows the weaver working on a takadai to make a flat-woven strip in crimson and gold. Here is the video that inspired the poem:

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Spenser Meets an Inchworm

I find an inchworm on my shirt at last,
Parading up the stripes from blue to white
To blue. She rules the inches, wriggling past
With head exploring windward. Treading light
Upon my shirtfront she propounds, polite,
My need for newer garments. Heartened, I 
Am happy she shall take my measure — quite
An opportunity, I’ll not deny;
She stands upon her back toes to descry
At distance and so checks me out,
Then loops herself to saunter forward, spry.
I need new shirts; of that she has no doubt,
Nor I. I thank her for her work; she rides — 
My tiny ruler — on my shirt outside.

Cut-paper and ink illustration kindly supplied by my sister Sarah Myers; used by permission.

After writing this poem, I realized that perhaps the tradition with which I grew up is not as widely known as I have assumed. This bit of folklore says that if an inchworm crawls across you (with its peculiar, looping gait), it is measuring you for new clothes.

Doing a quick bit of research for this post, I find there are other traditions as well; but this is the version with which I am familiar and from which I wrote the poem. Take it as you please!

I congratulate myself that at any rate this may be the first time in history that anyone has written a Spenserian sonnet about an inchworm… That might be good for some reason, but I have no idea what.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Hush, It's the Dog Days

August Days

The dampened hush 
Of low, gray, stationary clouds
Mutes the songs of summer-weary birds,
While the hum of an old AC
Is panting its way through the dog days.

Late summer muses in thin voices
That drip down, one by one, 
From a too-tolerant firmament, 
Wet and waiting
While the earth rolls slowly over
Like a sleeping dog away from too much sun.

This poem was written yesterday in response to a prompt on the Weeds and Wildflowers publication on I don’t follow writing prompts very often, but I found that this one certainly stirred the inspiration in my brain rather like stirring cream into a cup of tea. That is, it flowed together at once even if it didn’t entirely combine immediately.

The prompt was simply to use one of the two words “hush” or “solo”. And it was being presented in the context of the month of August, though I’m sure that feature was optional.

I have a line knocking about in my head for a “solo” poem, but this one for “hush” almost wrote itself as I listened to the air conditioner throbbing away at the back of our house. A fair amount of rework occurred later to improve clarity and flow, especially to bring the two stanzas together. I was happy with the results…

For those in rather different climates, the lines “From a too-tolerant firmament, Wet and waiting” refers to the often-oppressive humidity of a Midwestern (or Southern) summer, as the so-called dew point rises with the temperature. This means that the atmosphere can hold more and more moisture as the temperature rises, before reaching the point where it is saturated and must release some of that moisture in the form of cooling rain.

I am happy to note that despite the poem, the past few days have been a good deal cooler than preceding weeks!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Meditations in Late Summer

Thoughts from an August morning...

But do not pluck the flowers that remain,
Nor swear they will return again with rain,
Nor seek a thousand blooms upon their stems
Forever clipped with rocks about their hems
As garden grew for supercilious eyes
Alone, and not for its own joy to rise
Up to the sun and scatter to the breeze
The heart-dust of its summer seeds, to please
The birds, the soil, the moving air, and me.
For I take pleasure as the plants, to see
The birth and life, the fruited pods that break
To treasure meant for spring's and summer's sake
Tomorrow and next year and on and on.
And so my own life seeks a distant dawn:
Let scatter all my seeds each summer's close,
Nor squander them to see just one more rose
Before the winter, for it is not wise.
Let come each season with its sweet surprise;
Next spring you will see bloom from ten years past,
From seeds that waited but have borne at last
Their bower of bloom and verdant leaves, their gift
Of strength and sun on errant time adrift.