This unfinished cross-stitch tapestry was started (I think) by my mom in 1977. That’s the date stamped on the pattern. I rescued the unfinished project from the old house in one of the many clean-out sessions, found in a walk-in closet along with many other sewing materials, loose fabric swatches, patterns and pincushions, scissors and embroidery floss. It’s been in my closet ever since. The center was finished (a sampler with alphabet and numbers) and about a fourth of the border had already been stitched. The shadow of her original embroidery hoop makes a distinct age mark; it’s gone now, but the needle was left in this position. My suspicion is that she never finished it because in 1978 she gave birth to her fifth child–Erick. She also began to do more quilting and stenciling by then, so her art projects shifted. I hope to finally finish it in time for the birth of her second grandchild, Erick and Shelby’s baby due in September.


Opening the walk-in closet filled
with the stuff of living—I think
one day we will have to sell the house.
In the meantime, closing the door
as a hatbox falls, there are no poems
about choosing the appropriate dress
for your mother to be cremated in.

As a schoolchild, I learned
when there is anything left over
you must carry it. I’m taught to love
what lingers—the timpani in a slow concerto,
the echo of a lost voice,
the sound, three rooms away
of a breath stopping on its last chord.
Paying its debt, nighttime
closes its eyes and gives itself up
to morning. I think she is sleeping,
so best let her sleep. Keep the cat
from waking her.

I recognize my mother’s hands
on the walls of our house. These are her threads;
the threads I hold onto as I make my way,
always there is a path back.

My first act as an orphan: I choose
the sapphire dress, the best color I know
depicting the moon’s shadow
as it spirals away from the earth.

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