…anulbaṇáṃ vayata jóguvām ápaḥ. Weave ye the singers’ work without a knot. —Rigveda 10.53.6 Those pale cream swaths of handmade linen, brought From Sicily around 1905 Lay in our rag drawer over sixty years. We kept them for whatever simple needs Arose from time to time in household tasks: A patch on some old garment, or a strip Of lining to sew on a tattered hem; A bit of bandage, or a cleaning cloth; Wrapping for stored items, or just rags Required for wipe-ups or for polishing. I used the linen, tightly sewn and glued, To reinforce the broken spines of books And every volume so repaired now sits Sturdy and strong on bookshelves. Though all gone, Those linen swaths, like vanished, estranged friends Haunt my remembrance and evoke regret. We ripped it lavishly, as if the stuff Were from an endless bolt’s eternal loom. But why do otherwise? It was plain cloth, No rarer than a dozen household goods We used reflexively: old plates and trays, Cookware, cutlery, and garden tools. But I now think of women at their spindles In warm Sicilian cottages suffused With scent of oranges and candle-wax, Twisting the flaxen fibers to form thread And winding it on massive wooden spools Sold to the patient weavers, whose swift hands Sent shuttles running through the plaited weft. These made the linen sheets. What year was that? 1885? Or 92? No matter. They went into the trousseau My grandma brought with her to Ellis Island, And became bedsheets, lasting twenty years Until they were consigned to our rag drawer. By 1987 all was gone, Save for those well-stitched bindings in my books, Just visible at the edge of every spine. And I think of roughly textured cloth Smoothed by the steady rub of passing years, But still as firm and tight as on the day It came from the treadle-loom that gave it shape, Weaving the fabric that would clothe our lives, Our work, our sleep, our dreams, and our old books— Textum for texts! What benison in this: The generating spindle gives the thread That shuttles through the womb of warp and woof, And from that sacred union there is made The garment of these sacramental words— Mine, or the words of others, firmly bound With spines of handmade linen. Can I feel Its absence now, and not shrink inwardly, Recalling a world far distant, but still loved? The text and texture of identity, The flaxen threads of what was, and still is, Remain forever, and we cannot change The spindle’s turn, the crisscross of the loom. Give me the spinner’s skill, the weaver’s art— The sure hand to make text well woven, firm, Yet pliant as those linen swaths that lay For sixty years in readiness to serve Our home’s small needs and purposes. That wish Hovers about my pen, and every line I strive to set as straight and true and smooth As those the loom and shuttle intertwined. Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide. He is the editor of the literary magazine Trinacria and writes for Expansive Poetry On-line. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College.