In the morning, when the sun
Revealed its solitude to the world,
He woke, got up, and found
Just where they’d always been,
Scissors, needle, and thread, inside
The darning basket that his mother
Had kept her mending in. Strange,
That he didn’t think how strange it was
So many years since he had gone away,
So many since her death,
And he now in their cabin half-remembered,
Far from the city where they’d lived.
No matter: look at them, like new,
The needle long and bright, the scissors firmly closed,
The white thread tightly wound upon its spool.
Wrapped in a leather purse tied to his wrist,
He took them and went naked down the path
Long ago trampled out,
Now covered with a mat of grass,
Soft to the feet, quick-drying after rain.
Then there he was,
Beside a silent flowing from the north,
And watching how it curved and rippled west,
Then north again. He waded out
And as the bottom dropped
Struck for the middle of the current, where
It split upon a jumble of mossed rocks
Midstream, with April busy on each bank.
His back wedged tight against the rocks,
He squatted down and drew a length of thread
From off the spool, then slipped it quickly through
The needle’s eye – and felt
The colors of the morning seizing him:
Newborn the sun, new born the solitudes
Of leaf and bud and birdsong, and newborn
His yearning toward them. But not theirs to him.
And that is why the weaving was ordained.
In a kind of trance
That was more the world’s than his, he watched
the rush of water, how its rushing slowed –
No, neither slowed nor quickened, rather ceased
To flow or not to flow, became
(Seeming much deeper suddenly)
The nature of its going
As the trees
Along the banks became
The nature of their growing
And the air
Became its being everywhere
The sun became
The being of its burning in the sky
Had started in to stitch.
Moving the threaded needle through and back,
He stitched all day, a day that had no end
So long as he could pass the needle’s point
Through the dark water and soft air,
Then draw up the thread
And watch its color deepening from white
And watch a pattern taking shape,
Faintly at first; so frail a web
He hardly could discern it as he wove
And hardly could believe such seamless stuff
Was growing as he worked it through the day
From thread to warp and woof, a tapestry
That brightened as he spread it on the rocks
Into those colors April cannot know
Into those colors that our hearts create
Out of their human yearning,
Until the thread runs out.
Taking the scissors, cut the pattern free
Some shreds of woven stuff that fell
Into the stream or whipped off in the wind,
Dissolving back, invisible again
(As did three drops of blood
Pricked by the needle from his thumb:
So, paid on both sides).
The tapestry, complete, faffling
Its gold and purple dream against the wind
He gathered in his fist, and leaned
Into the water, holding it high up.
But now he felt
Hard-pressed to reach the shore, the river’s rush
Stronger, as though dangerously deep,
The air become a storming in the trees
And all of April havocked.
It was not he who made the sun go down…
What had he robbed them of?
He stood upon the shore, and knew
How fair the tapestry that he had wrought
And held now in his hands, how fatally
Needle and thread and scissors had transformed
The flowing and not flowing of the stream
The burning and not burning of the sun
The winds upon this water and these woods
And all the waters of the world as well
Into that pattern April does not know
Into this tapestry he gives to us.
Reproduced with permission of Helen Drutt English.