Image by Crispin Hughes

The Invisible Mender

The Invisible Mender (My First Mother)

I'm sewing on new buttons
to this washed silk shirt.
Mother-of-pearl,
I chose them carefully.
In the haberdasher's on Chepstow Place
I turned a boxful over
one by one,
searching for the backs with flaws:
those blemished green or pink or aubergine,
small birth marks on the creamy shell.

These afternoons are short,
the sunlight buried after three or four,
sap in the cold earth.
The trees are bare.
I'm six days late.
My right breast aches so
when I bend to catch a fallen button
that strays across the floor.
Either way,
there'll be blood on my hands.

Thirty-seven years ago you sat in poor light
and sewed your time away,
then left.
But I'm no good at this:
a peony of blood gathers on my thumb, falls
then widens on the shirt like a tiny, opening mouth.

I think of you like this -
as darkness comes,
as the window that I can't see through
is veiled with mist
which turns to condensation
slipping down tall panes of glass,
a mirror to the rain outside -
and I know that I'll not know
if you still are mending in the failing light,
or if your hands (as small as mine)
lie still now, clasped together, underground.


'The Invisible Mender' from The Invisible Mender (Jonathan Cape, 1997), © Sarah Maguire 1997, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

Recordings

Sarah Maguire Reading from Her Poems

1Vigil

2Almost the Equinox

3Cow Parsley, Bluebells

4The Grass Church at Dilston Grove

5The Fracture Clinic

6The Invisible Mender

7My Father's Piano

8The Hearing Cure

9Tidemarks

10Traveling Northward

11May Day, 1986

12Wolves Are Massing on the Steppes of Kazakhstan

13From Dublin to Ramallah

14Zaata

15The Pomegranates of Kandahar

16The Florist's at Midnight

17The Mist Bench 18Year-Round Chrysanthemums

19My Grafting Knife

20The Tree Bank at Ten

21Cotton Boll

22Europe

23Mahbouba Zaidi’s Hands

24Hibiscus

25Damascene

26Cloves and Oranges

27Jasmine in Yemen 28Rosemary

29The Jardin des Plantes

30Proof

31Psoriasis

32Dust

33Spilt Milk