I think about how you stayed up nights, Mother,
drinking coffee at your sewing machine.
The time you never went to bed
finishing my Isadora Duncan costume—
diaphanous number cut from a swell of black crepe
for the mad-grief dance after her children accidentally drowned.
Remember waking to find the garment realized—
dark offering you draped across the ironing board,
the fastidiously stitched seams that stroked
my just-coming curves so I’d be beautiful,
drunk in the lights of my junior high stage,
and you out there in the hushed cool of your reserved seat,
hands folded, resting now, the little bobbin of your heart
spinning inside its quiet nook while you watched me
do the hard, privileged work of feeling for both of us.
—from Rattle #27, Summer 2007
Michelle Bitting: “I was at a workshop in Florida writing this poem, halfway into it, had conjured Isadora and the sewing element. I decided to do a little extra online research into Ms. Duncan’s life. Lo and behold the father of her children was none other than Eugene Singer, the sewing machine tycoon. Synchronicity: I knew I was on the right track.” (web)