She’d dribble the fringe of her shawl
in the river. The quick current rippled the black threads.
They floated as she wished she could.
They wanted to be swept away but she held fast
to what had been woven. Her mother’s shawl.
Now her own. How much longer
to be handed down, this black keepsake?
She’d lift out the fringe,
rub it over her face, feel the cold
water run down her cheeks,
down her neck,
into white folds of flesh underneath the dress
worn before her by her kinswomen.
What might she catch in this web
if she let it drift far enough
out of the shallows,
into the dark center
where she could not see the bottom?
How far would she have to wade
until she stepped into
some other world, under the sun-dappled
surface? The river itself was a shawl,
always wrapping itself round the hills,
threaded with golden light,
trailing its castaway leaves.
It could weave her into its weft,
carry her farther than she could imagine—
the sea she could feel surging
inside when she let herself
want what she knew she could not
have, a life she could open
as wide as a closet door onto
garments no woman had worn
before her. Nobody’s life but her own.
From Clothes Lines, ed. by Celia Miles and Nancy Dillingham (Catawba Publishing, 2009)
Used with the author's permission.