I knew at some point that the artwork I viewed when I was on Glasgow earlier this month would eventually compost down into a poem. Today’s the day for poetry practice to be sparked by an exhibit of the finalists of the BBC Women’s Hour Craft Prize.  The work that stayed with me did not win.  But it was the one that moved me most. Celia Pym uses darning as a “way to interrogate our feelings about vulnerability, care and repair”, as well as the value of mending. In the exhibit, at Glasgow’s Lighthouse, the mended garment included some biography about the maker, the wearer and the meaning of the garment. It was not just an exercise in salvaging an item of clothing; it excavated story and memory. As the old Celts believed, memory is the basis of all poetry.


It is an out of date craft,

seeing the warp and weft,

the places where it has become

all unravelled,

where a chasm or crater

opened up in the fabric.

You had your needle and yarn.

You knew how to darn.

To darn was necessity,

like plugging the hole that sprang

in a dyke – for otherwise

the sea will take all.

It’s the last defense. With yarn

weaving it all back into 

a whole piece, the story may

have alteration,

but it still holds up despite

patchwork, cast on, sounds off.

The tide goes out. The seawall

stilll holds it at bay.

Though today mending may be

a dying art. We cast off

the worn beyond easily

into a landmass,

a continent of cast offs-

poor storyless pieces of cloth

insufficently beloved,

piled high, sold so cheap.

Mending used to be a skill.

As necessary as how

to make was in the first place.

The plot’s got mislaid

The fabric’s gone frayed.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

One thought on “Mending

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