Photo by Clara Silverstein
Making a Mask with
My Mother's Sewing Kit
by Clara Silverstein
She left a needle already threaded
with black for a quick fix
of a rip, and a felt cushion
shaped like a heart, stuck with pins,
spools to match the only colors
she wore: navy, cream, plum.
I use her gold scissors to cut up
my t-shirt from a festival of twanging
music she never listened to,
stitch a rectangle to stifle
my breath. I follow the rules,
flatten the curve she escaped
which threatens to undo me.
She used to fit together
hems and seams, practical
and prepared, each stitch tallying
what I owed her, which could never
be enough. The mask hides the narrow
lips I inherited, the ones she kept
clamped. I try on the thimble, inhale
its brass smell. It won’t protect me.
Clara Silverstein is the Boston-based author of the historical novel Secrets in a House Divided, the memoir White Girl: A Story of School Desegregation and three cookbooks. Her work has appeared in American Heritage, Southern Cultures, Blackbird, the Boston Globe, and at Boston City Hall. The former program director of the Chautauqua Writers’ Center, she has taught at Grub Street Writers and was a longtime member of the Workshop for Publishing Poets.