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The stitches could have been torn out one by one but there were too many

to count and so tight one to the next

The ripper small and sharp

My hands small and pink


The tiniest mistakes can derail

The foot on the pedal

The speed of the needle


When I sewed on the pocket straight

through the back of the shorts

It was too much to imagine getting past

short-sheeted, hemmed in

My fingertips would never slide

into that pocket

My feet would never slip through center

to the cold basement tiles below

Righting this listing ship was far beyond the grasp

of hands that could scarcely hold

the weight of pinking shears


A first and last sewing project

folded, tucked and hidden

back in my mother’s deep basket

after the cutting and the pinning to pattern

after the chalk marks

after laying the pieces back-to-back

the puckered green and white stripes of seersucker

promising summer at water’s edge


All possibilities truncated by an errant seam


And now, I wonder, why didn’t I ask for help?

My mother, who could design and line

a chocolate-brown velvet cape

with flowing pink satin and drape it

around my scant shoulders

She might have said, Honey it’s not so hard.

Your fabric is beautiful and if you can just—

The shorts will fit just—


But we were not practiced at admitting

mistakes in my family

or asking where things had gone


There must be a special heaven

for unfinished sewing projects


And my mother, waiting there, ripper in hand


– Moira Trachtenberg

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