Plain weaves, twills and herringbones,
woven at home linen on linen, linen
on cotton. Some are still uncut-a band
of warp threads separating one napkin,
one towel from the other-but most are decorated
with needlepoint lace. My mother's older sister
had the broad back and strong constitution
to bend for hours, working the pedals, arms
stretching to send the shuttle scuttling through.
My mother, the more delicate one, the one
who wanted to get away, sat where the light
fell on her hands, and pulling out the weft threads
her sister had worked into a tight fabric,
restructured the space with floss, white on white
openwork borders, arabesqued windows.
Rough- or fine-textured, the linens I was saving
were meant to survive soaking in hot water
and ashes, milling on the rocks. I machine
wash them and when the weather is good,
hang them outside, the way women still do over there,
stretching them into shape while damp. Most
are holding up well; a few show signs of wear,
but not from use. It was keeping them safe in a trunk
for so many years that weakened the fabric.
Maybe Even This Memory Is Useless
Maybe even this memory is useless,
barely alive because of a whistle.
The boy disappeared behind
the town's walls that morning
in the blinding snow, head
bandaged, a moist rose of blood
blooming under the gauze,
a red scrappy angel.
I lost you on the ramps
along the walls. Now I see
only your shadow on the blue
snow, the light of your legs.
(Translated from the Italian by Rina Ferrarelli)