The Phenomenon

They were on holiday celebrating their Ruby,
and she’d hitched up the hems of his new trousers with stitches that puckered,
sewing with a needle too fat for the job, a thread too long.
Her own trousers, too, had the hallmarks of her homely alteration.
She was small-boned, fragile, too short for regular sizes.
One could just imagine her struggling,
like a little girl, with the big dressmaking scissors.

He never expected her to be a good needlewoman,
nor she that he’d carry her things for her all these years.
Out on the lake that afternoon, when she shivers,
he gets her wrap from the canvas bag he always carries
for their holiday things – the bag with the camera in it,
the blood pressure pills, a bottle of water
and the binoculars bought a while back, duty-free,
on some cruise ship or other.

As he drapes the wrap over her shoulders,
a boat he’s watching splits a flock of swimming birds – half of them
spooling up from the lake like a lifetime of sunrises all at once,
the other half swimming for their lives on the surface,
but hardly moving against the wake.
He just manages a photograph of the phenomenon,
exclaiming – how absurd, how unexpected…
She smiles, looking in another direction at a small island,
where a solitary tree grows, bent with the wind.

He hadn’t expected her to be a good needlewoman,
nor she that he’d carry her things all that time;
that he’d keep the sewing kit from a small hotel
they stayed in on their honeymoon, with those tiny bobbins,
and all the bright threads wound tight upon them.


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