Prayer With Needlepoint


White lace hangs in a storefront window
as young women stop to admire pinned linens
folded over like ghosts & all I want to know
is why. Why white, why not fuchsia or red, maybe
a sari made by my grandmother on her Singer
from Sears, where she’s worked for forty years.


Back home, her brown eyes would burn
through the night in that dim room
where mornings came in with the steady drill
of a stubborn woodpecker tap-tap-tapping
& the new sun casting bursts of light
off the shine of her silver-thimbled thumb.


Remember the handkerchief, Nanny, the one
I brought back from Burano, all white with fine
lace borders hand-stitched in tiny painstaking pricks
by the wives of fishermen, women waiting
long months out on low sea-front stoops near
bright colored boats for their men to come home?


You held up the handiwork for a closer look
at the French-knotted yarrow & ivory slip
stitch of the embroidered “H,” the letter that
stood for your name and mine, the married
name you took. Then out of nowhere
you said it: You can bury me with it.


Now, outside your house, we sit holding
a pale pink dress, the one you were married
in, and you wonder aloud if you might wear it again,
you’re so thin, but it’s unraveling at the end,
so you ask me to help you make it a little longer.

 

We’re waiting for the doctor’s call, watching
the clock and the bob-tailed squirrel from our perch
on the front porch, like the women of Burano
clutching their handkerchiefs as they watch & wait,
watch & wait, until word comes the cancer
has spread, and they say it looks like lace,
the way it is delicately threading inside you.


Let me stay with you & paint your face
the way I used to, with powdered blush & baby blue
dusted gently over each eyelid. There’s some peach
ice cream in the freezer we need to finish.
We can take this hem out all the way, one more inch.

"Big Sur" - Hollie Chastain

Offerings


Walking the dog down Eagle
I always stop to see
what’s been left
in front of the red Victorian
that was once part of the Grand
Fassking Hotel
owned by a German family
until the last of them died
and the buildings were parceled, sold,
relocated in pieces
one or two miles in either direction.


It’s said the place is haunted
so maybe
this is a way to ward off
ghosts. Keep them happy
with beetroot
and tchotchkes, poppet
with the face of a katzchen,
souvenirs of their time here.


I'm reminded of the house
a few blocks down
with the cairn of bricks
on the front lawn as if
the chimney had crumbled
to its knees, bowing
in prayer, a cardboard sign
inviting passersby,
Please Take All You Need.


And here, carefully chosen
artifacts arranged around
a rusty fire hydrant
like milagros on an altar:


sack of Russet potatoes
butcher knife with the blade
encased in a rubber ball
map of Argentina
skein of orange yarn
empty dollhouse
basket of not yet ripe
avocados

from a neighbor’s fallen tree

 

Each night, a new sacrament
made to appease the dead
or comfort the living.


Luna noses the offerings
as I reach into my coat
pocket for the tarot card
I drew this morning,
Strength - a woman closing
the jaws of a lion, subduing
him with a chain of flowers.


I take an avocado from the
basket and slide the card
in its place, pull gently
on Luna’s leash
and lead her home.

Kim Harvey is a queer poet, public servant, and proud dog mom from Richmond, Virginia who currently makes her home in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is an Associate Editor at Palette Poetry. Her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. You can find her work in Poets Reading the News, Rattle, Radar, Barren Magazine, 3Elements Review, Wraparound South, Black Bough Poetry, and elsewhere. She is the 1st Prize winner of the Comstock Review’s 2019 Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Award and the 3rd Prize winner of the 2019 Barren Press Poetry Contest. Twitter: @kimharveypoet. Instagram: @luna_jack. Web: www.kimharvey.net

 

The poem “Prayer with Needlepoint” is dedicated in loving memory of her grandmother Juanita.

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