Spun Flax, Norwich, VT, 1862

by Lisa Furmanski

‘Twas the sleep of butter and lard, one hundred winters

for rendering
the dead things, mittens and mince.

Stolid eon of lightlessness,
how long

and often
the stooks lay retting in fields,

only the yellow best for scutching.
No use for royal,

flowers or glaucous, veined leaves.

Nor the brown seeds, almost bitter
pips of apples,

but none
of the sugar and gloss. She drooped

through the hackling: ax into linen,
into money,

tea bags. Dear Guests, hers was

never a fairy tale, though pricked
she was by the wheel

(splinter as soporific),
her whetted world picked up and

carried off. All those minutes

boiling the water.
Dun-colored thread and basket, her

motive no more or less than labor,
equal to the pinched

weight of stone
walls. Guests, she has been spent

dully. Root for the moon nursing
at her fingers,

its unwary mouth
rouses her, working the sliver free.


Skein of flax

Lisa Furmanski

Maybe it was Hillary, or the wonderful movie Suffragette with Carey Mulligan, or the poems of Linda Gregerson I have been devouring of late, but when I saw the flax in its box and desperately wanted to admire the fortitude and skill that created it, I instead felt the isolation, boredom, and servitude of that work.  Maybe it is the isolation, boredom, and servitude of ‘women’s work’ that I do today?  In any case, I wanted a large context for this small skein.  Plus a fairy tale.  Plus a gesture to the audience.  I love writing poems that make these things possible.

About Lisa: “I live in Etna with my family, I read voraciously and write when I can.”