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Textures that Tell

From: Sewanee Review
Volume 121, Number 4, Fall 2013
pp. 533-535 | 10.1353/sew.2013.0117

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Feeling Her Way

—from a photograph by Eudora Welty

Time has woven a map on her face—
a spider's odyssey, that web of lines.
She leans to her loom
set up on a table there on the porch
and propped against the flaking clapboard wall.
She leans, and the wooden arms
of the rush-bottom rocker hug;
the rinsed-thin dress, its washed-out
pattern of flowers, strains to contain her.
The weaver is feeling her way.
Is it the texture that tells,
or does the intimate heat
of each strip of fabric hint of its hue?
Grandmotherly stout, Penelope weaves
a garment of going, a shroud
to be unlaced when no one is looking. No,
she's improvising with rags,
a web of welcome to feet
that will someday or not enter at sundown,
the clodhoppers chucked on the porch, or step
at sunup from under the covers,
the bricks at the foot of the bed
hearth-hot at bedtime, stone cold
when winter has bitten through the floorboards.
From random scraps she weaves
her narrative by touch;
counts and you plod, who follows the south end
of a northbound mule, and the hard
clay of the furrows reddens your brogans; or hums
and you, within the clatter of boxcars, weave
a tune through the iron drone of the line.
Feeling her way, this blind bard maps you home.

Feeding the Manger

—Santa Maria Maggiore

The wealth of gold and marble
ambushed us: the coffered ceiling of gold,
the rows of Athenian columns flanking the nave,
mosaics depicting to uplifted eyes
what story our eyes failed to discern,
for with vespers commencing, priests were processing,
and now it was music of organ and choir,
of even the red-skulled bishop intoning that rapt us
until the words, like seaborne Peter's doubt,
turned ether back into air and, breathing, we drowned
into our old sightseeing selves
whose object had been from the start
the Colosseum, of course.

By now the champion cyclist
of the Giro d'Italia run had posed with his trophy
and gone. Where there had been a mob
there were Sunday amblers. With them we drifted
up the Palatine Hill, alongside the Forum,
then back past other ditches
where maybe a column stood and sometimes a pair
with perhaps a lintel. High up a couple was posing,
out on a balcony off to the side of a loggia:
framed by the casa's one window,
under the pointed arch,
he in a uniform, blue, with silver fringing his shoulders,
and she, bare-shouldered, in billowing sea-foam
as if, the flesh of empire grass
(its gutted skeleton marble),
Mars and Venus had taken immaculate form
as the couple whose wedding it was.

Our feet, when they carried us back in the morning—
Santa Maria, they were the feet of pilgrims.
We stood in the chapel beneath the basilica's altar
in wedlock transfixed as if by an arrow,
in fact by wooden boards:
within a tureen of sorts of gold and glass,
the wood of a manger.
As pilgrims had, if never those three kings,
For fifteen hundred footsore years, so we
feasted our eyes? We fed the manger our gaze
as if to engender our souls. On top of the shrine
a child of gold lolled on a blanket of gold,
under it straw, a bed of gold that looked scratchy:
the infant Christ, his weight on an elbow,
the free arm gesturing Godward
or maybe, with two fingers raised, conferring a blessing.
I picture him not as Cupid exactly
but like him twiddling an arrow
as if he has caught the shaft of a gaze
that like a spear had aimed to wound.

David Havird  

David Havird's new collection of poetry, Map Home, was published this spring by Texas Review Press. He professes English at Centenary College of Louisiana.

Copyright © 2013 David Havird
Project MUSE® - View Citation
David Havird. "Textures that Tell." Sewanee Review 121.4 (2013): 533-535. Project MUSE. Web. 18 Nov. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Havird, D.(2013). Textures that Tell. Sewanee Review 121(4), 533-535. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved November...

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