By MIKKI ARONOFF.
1. THREAD HAS NO memory, thread has no mercy. Mercy is something you bestow. There is no bestowing with thread. Thread is dispassionate even though it is usually blamed for problems. Take tangling, for instance. You couldn’t tangle thread unless it was there to be tangled, so its presence makes it look guilty. Same for tethering. You could tie your dog or your uncle to a pole and they wouldn’t like it, especially if there’s no shade, but is it the tether’s fault?
2. Cotton gin? Not what you think.
3. Playtime weaves jet and crimson dreams, takes her to the edge of the woods. A cowbell clangs her home. Her father is out back with the hose. He grows cotton plants, a dozen or so. It’s just a hobby. Her mother sits on the porch and waits for the bolls to open so she can spin and weave the fluffy fibers they encase. Later, they’ll eat a dinner of leftovers off plastic placemats with scenes from Yellowstone and The Appalachian Trail, and then it’s early to bed.
4. To mercerize is to chemically treat fibers to impart strength and luster and reduce fabric shrinkage. Shrinkage is what happens when penis meets pool.
5. Break down a cotton plant and you get lint, seeds, seed hulls, stalks, stems or canes, roots, leaves, bolls, and flowers. Break down a flower and you get tears. When she (see #3) started to flower, someone stalked her. She was afraid to turn around and see who it was, but she was able to sense his shadow. She quickened her steps the closer she got to home.
6. Her grandmother took an old sheet, cut and sewed it and embroidered her a Russian peasant blouse for her birthday. She cross-stitched it red and black to mark the knots of their lives. The stain of revolution, of iron, weigh heavy. She is thirteen and wants a t-shirt.
7. Linters are the short fuzz on cotton plants. They provide cellulose for making plastics, explosives and other products, perhaps the tugging strings of tampons.
8. Ariadne’s Thread is a method for solving a problem with multiple apparent means of proceeding. Take our flowering stalkee (see #5). How can she evade that person? She could disguise herself, but for her scent. The stalker’s nostrils expand to take her in. Okay, let’s get real. Throw that guy in the clinker. Do you really want to lock up a budding young girl? No, you’d sit her down and talk to her. A lot. Until, years later, tired of her sulking, you send her away to college, where she has a crush on her physics professor. She fastens her eyes on his thighs, invents theories about cotton thread and crucibles. Her heat is need, is threat. Later, a real lover leaves her for another. Miffed, she stitches his photo between two pages of her sketchbook. Trapped, airless. Empath that she is, she starts gasping for air, runs to the bathroom in a panic. Where are her pills? Arachne scuds across the shower stall floor. Thin limbs, fire on the belly. Black widow. She nearly slips on the tile floors escaping to the bedroom. She opens the window, sticks her head out over the fire escape. She cannot read the stars, as the city lights are too bright in the muggy heat. She unravels some, then some more, then rewinds her way back to bed. Problem solved.
9. A Harlequin Dane lugs his tonnage past her and a Vietnam vet in the coffee line, gets them talking of their fondness for oversized dogs. Both of them now too old to manage. Their thirst knits them till they get to the counter. She drives home, not recognizing the flesh and fur that flanked her that morning. Someone’s walking little dogs just like mine. Her dog-walker on his phone. All sense spooling from her head.
10. Cotton belongs to the genus Gossypium but learned early to keep its mouth shut. It knows what kind of trouble telling tales out of school can bring (see #1-9).
11. She careens between the moistness of stream banks.
Blessed thread, holy filament,
tie my heat to my wanting,
flame my dread,
make safe my travels.
Skeins of copper wire bird-nesting the dark.
Mikki Aronoff’s work has appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, EastLit, Virga, Love’s Executive Order, bosque9, Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, SurVision, Rogue Agent Journal, London Reader, Popshot Quarterly, Global Poemic and elsewhere. A New Mexico poet and Pushcart-prize nominee, she is also involved in animal advocacy.