“To the Child Watching His Grandmother Sew” by Bradford Kimball

Seamstress by Lily Prigioniero, oil painting of an elderly woman sewing by a window

Image: “Seamstress” by Lily Prigioniero. “To the Child Watching His Grandmother Sew” was written by Bradford Kimball for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, August 2023, and selected as the Editor’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)


Bradford Kimball


The whir of the sewing machine fades
Like a faltering metronome.
If you can imagine each stitch
As a note,
You can hear a lone melody.
But you don’t know that yet.
You are too young, and it is too dark.
She’ll wait until the lights burn out,
And when she thinks you are asleep,
She’ll play that tune again.
One day, you’ll hear
Some love song on the radio
And understand.
The music crescendos—
The lights burn out, one by one,
And you remember
The needle’s steady hum:
The first love song you ever heard.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
August 2023, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the series editor, Megan O’Reilly: “There is a profound sense of warmth, both emotionally and visually, in this beautiful image, which is reflected in ‘To the Child Watching his Grandmother Sew.’ The simple yet extraordinary idea of a grandmother’s sewing as a child’s first music is elegantly executed, never overdone or heavy-handed. I also love the way the poet uses light: The grandmother waits until ‘the lights burn out’ to run the sewing machine so she doesn’t wake the child, which for me conjures a picture of the child listening to this ‘music’ while in a dreamlike state in another room—a deeply resonant image. There is a great deal of love in this poem—it makes me miss the ‘steady hum’ of my own grandmother.”

Rattle Logo