ODE TO SEWING BASKETS
by Joan Mazza
In dusty attics or basements, wicker confections
wait to be rediscovered by new owners. They appear
at yard sales with flat squares of tailor’s chalk,
darning eggs, and pin cushions that look like apples,
a strawberry dangling free, stuffed with sand
for sharpening needles lined up on a scrap of felt.
Or needles stuck in thick red wool from a double-
breasted coat someone tackled with help from a teacher.
Threads and floss in various colors, wound on notched
cards, buttons sorted by size in tins that once held mints.
Rusting pins on cardboard, along with hooks and eyes.
Pinking sheers and scissors, better than you can buy now.
Best of all these devices is the notion
of a seam ripper—original tool to un-sew
what you closed in tiny stitches and want
to undo, undo! A chance to do it over.
by Joan Mazza
Praise for wooden molds to shape butter churned
from whole milk, from a known and named cow,
praise for families who made small instruments
of wood and stone to call animals from the wild:
turkeys, moose, deer. Praise for plumb bobs,
pie safes, washing bowls and pitchers.
Praise for sealing wax and initialed stamps
and that moment of aroma at the writing desk
with smooth slats of a roll top. Praise for inkwells,
quills, and blotting paper, couriers who hand-delivered
love letters and waited for the reply. For pale blue
onionskin paper that folded into its own envelope.
For the brassy shine of sextants and sundials, inlays
of harpsichords, metronomes, and zithers,
for saltcellars, darning eggs, dyes made from berries.
Praise to those who made instruments useful,
beautiful, and perennial. To oilcloth, cloth diapers,
and the pages of Sears catalogs my grandmother
used instead of toilet paper, when nothing went
to waste, everything repurposed or burned as fuel.
Praise to old things that rust and collect the dust
of dying moths and cobwebs. They hide in basements,
on attic floors, in wooden trunks at the backs
of closets. Yes, that one with the secret door.
by Joan Mazza
I love this property, set back from the road,
from traffic, where few neighbors are seen,
for its large screened porch added by a former
owner, spanning forty feet, with room to sleep,
for its sloping mossy ground, where rainwater
drains toward the western end of these six acres.
For the enormous feel of its limits to a city girl,
for the fog that tangles in my hair, trees falling
into each other making an X in the woods,
for the surprise of fungi—Boletus and Amanita—
shining and deadly, for spider webs and beetles
I can’t yet name, for its herons fishing in the pond
and lotus blooming in a pink explosion
of enlightenment and seedpods drying brown.
For its raccoon and squirrels who want to move in.
For storybook seasons offering foliage opening
wide in winter to see deep into gray woods,
for fragrances and stinks that speak of cycles
of death and life renewed, for the sounds of birds
cawing and calling in their own names: phoebes
and chickadees, and the three-tone whistles of titmice,
pausing for a reply. For abundant ferns, tall grasses,
oak and beech trees shading, shedding, for pollen
in spring, for heavy rain rutting the driveway.
Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist,
psychotherapist, and seminar leader. She is the author of six books,
including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam), and her
poetry has appeared in Rattle, American Journal of Nursing, The
MacGuffin, Mezzo Cammin, Mobius, and The Nation. Currently,
she lives in rural central Virginia, where she writes poetry and does
fabric and paper art. More information is available on her website.
On “Ode to Sewing Baskets,” “Praise Song for Old Ways,” and
“At the End of a Long Gravel Driveway”:
I have been thinking a lot about all the items people no longer use,
which were once artfully created and part of everyday life, plus
the skills lost with those items. As a result, I’ve written several
poems along similar themes to celebrate crafts, while trying to
learn some of them. I’ve taken up home canning, crazy quilting,
and baking bread.
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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Volume 9, Number 2
Copyright © 2014
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to material
published in the Apple
Valley Review are retained
by the individual authors
FOR OLD WAYS
AT THE END OF A LONG