Home > Fragments > Materials and Not Enough Time: An Alphabet

Materials and Not Enough Time: An Alphabet

October 17, 2012

by Pamela Johnson Parker

Alençon lace (I see you through a veil)

Broadcloth (the prairie sprawls and undulates),

Burlap (kittens in a sack you rescue them)

Calico (aprons and flour sack frocks cut up for your quilt)

Cambric (handkerchief of the Lord, I embroider an H)

Canvas (an artist’s model shivers in the corner, the artist is you the model is me)

Chino (you called them your lawyer pants, wore them when you were permanently pressed for funds)

Corduroy (kings’ cloth, Thomas Hart Benton’s furrowed fields, fretted like your old Gibson)

Cotton (your skin my skin same boll)

Crepe (my 1920s de chine dress cut on the bias, flowers over my hip bones, petals and branches over my ribs),

Denim (your thigh sliding through the wicket of mine in the doorway where we first kissed),

Felt (wetting wool, rubbing wool, a congress of wet sheep in an Irish pub we visit),

Flannel (your shirt still warm from your skin, I steal it for a quick trip to the kitchen)

Fleece (I have been shorn of you)

Gabardine (your three-piece suit with its vest, its watch chain and fob, the suit I couldn’t bury you in)

Gauze (breathing through it, seeing through it after you’re gone)

Gingham (cheery kitchen curtains with cross-stitched roosters, I am scrambling the first eggs I’ll make for you)

Kapok (we are cocooned together, a private tent in the cherry trees)

Lamé (drag queen who made you laugh your lustiest at “You’re Not Woman Enough to Take My Man” and the swaggering hips of the singer, the waterfall of gold over them),

Linen (the tan and black suit I wore on our first Easter, the one that fits again because I can’t eat/don’t cook without you)

Madras (a plaid we didn’t like, a city we wanted to visit)

Muslin (that impossibly thin antique blouse, leg o’mutton sleeves and lace collar on which you pinned for me a cameo)

Nylon (your thumbnail sends a millipede skittering down my stocking)

Organza (the sheer fabric, the topnotes of gardenia in a perfume you picked out),

Piqué (the screen door, slamming behind us as we head to the lake, fishnets)

Rayon (the 1940s dress I wore when we’d swing dance, you’d lift me and I’d fly)

Satin (slick sheets you’d throw off the bed)

Serge (the ocean’s undertow, all these layers stitched together)

Silk (one of the few fabrics that will shatter, as mirrors do, as I have)

Twill (classic fabric, archaic contraction, twill never be better)
Velvet (the feel of your skin, there)

Voile (close to veil, my hair over my face, my dress over a chair)

Wool (it made you itch, o I would scratch your back)

Worsted (these days the way they’re woven, warp and weft and what’s looming)

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Pamela Johnson Parker is a medical editor and adjunct professor of creative writing and literature at Murray State University. A Walk Through the Memory Palace was the first selection in the qarrtsiluni chapbook series. Another chapbook, Other Four Letter Words, is available from Finishing Line Press. Pamela’s work is also featured in Best New Poets 2011, edited by D. A. Powell.

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  1. October 17, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    The fragments are small lives I could live in. Exqusiite choices. These are the small worlds that make a universe.

  2. Barbara LaMorticella
    May 15, 2013 at 3:57 am

    Oh I love this poem, a list poem that manages to both be clever and carry an emotional charge, the charge made more powerful by the restraint of the list form. And how lovely the reading.

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