“Haute Buttons” by Kenton K. Yee

Worm by Enne Tesse, black and white drawing of a worm turning into a mushroom

Image: “Worm” by Enne Tesse. “Haute Buttons” was written by Kenton K. Yee for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, August 2022, and selected as the Editor’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)


Kenton K. Yee


My mother ran her Singer past midnight.
I learned to tune out whirling.
Who knows why I’m telling you now.
In shadow. In chiaroscuro.
A rectangle’s infrequent beeping.
Its text that doesn’t say what it means.
We sew between choo-choos.
We sew and wash. We wash and change.
I had just changed to slacks when we were
what? I hope not just some fad
like sideways caps or capri pants.
What we are is not what we want to show,
or see. Some of us tire of the fabric
and others, the colors. Or the buckles.
And changing clothes—like coloring, or not
trimming, or affecting a new voice—is escape.
Whoosh! Bonk. Brown eggs.
Maybe I will be the same. At least I will be different.
Do you miss dancing me on nine threads?
My mother still sewed after retirement.
I’m sure that’s what you were going for.
The world teases us.
Old aggressions. New passivities. Sweatshops.
It’s all so fast and all too fast.
You wonder why I’m thinking of sewing
but I’m thinking of how we did not change.
You were my marionette. Prices are climbing again.
It was terrible. It’s beautiful.
Truth is I don’t want to stop sewing.
I can’t sew and I can’t stop sewing.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
August 2022, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “It would have been easier to fixate on the surreal nature of the image, but Kenton took the metaphor deeper, exploring the threads of change itself. The poem moves freely through the layers of his mind, like the image moves through layers of transformation, stitching from memory something surprising and new.”

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