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  • Seamstress, and: The Dresser
  • Lynne Thompson (bio)


Every day that summer, Mother zigzagged & lock-stitched in the room she kept for sewing.

Six Seventeen magazines atop a side table and the Singer humming with the blue harmonics

of treble, footpad, bobbin; the indigo, yellow, and scarlet threads threading it all; her scissors

in constant motion. I was off to college and Mother made sure I would show up dressed

for the part. I’d never have to sacrifice the lucky life she’d wanted. It’s all there in Lindbloom’s

Eagle, her high-school yearbook, 1928: Spanish Club & Honor Society & “have a fabulous time

at the University of Chicago,” but Mother married just after her graduation so her daughter wasn’t

going to come up short. In the end, doesn’t everything come down to vanity, time? That summer,

Mother tacked and tatted skirts, shirts, slacks. She stitched dozens of spools of thread through

wools, corduroys, cottons, velvets for cool fall evenings, until late in August, I was gone, heavy

luggage in tow. When I came home two months later (torn jeans, no bra, hair wild as a funeral’s

second line, unrecognizable) saying, I haven’t wornany of it, Mother wept, then sold her trusted Singer. [End Page 141]

The Dresser

When she told me Kay Francis died with no one beside her bed, I understood Mother remembered dressing that silver-screen star—that she’d worked

unseen in the trailer, a safe distance from the gems and furbelows, yes ma’aming while Francis stood, insisted: “A little shorter—no, a little longer—oh,

can’t you highlight the shadows above my breasts?” Mother slaved early mornings to late evenings, glad for it because money was tight, food scarce, so

scarce she hoped no one saw the scraps she smuggled from the studio’s buffet, hoping the bits wouldn’t spoil before she boarded the trolley, finally, fingers cramping,

knees throbbing from kneeling on straight pins and five hundred colored bugle beads. Of course she remembered as she warned: In the end, we are all just women, alone[End Page 142]

Lynne Thompson

Winner of the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Award in poetry in 2017, the Stephen Dunn Poetry Prize in 2016, and an Individual Artist Fellowship from the City of Los Angeles for 2015–16, lynne thompson is the author of Start With a Small Guitar and Beg No Pardon, winner of the Perugia Book Award and the Great Lakes Colleges New Writers Award. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Salamander, Prairie Schooner, African American Review, Crab Creek Review, Poetry, and Nasty Women Poets: An Anthology of Subversive Verse. Thompson is reviews and essays editor of the literary journal Spillway.



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