Thursday, April 30, 2015
All Sewn Up
You need to sink the silk into the muck
For three full moons--every fiber must
Suck in the mud to be transformed.
We have created this cloth
For hundreds of years on this island,
Just this way. The dirt smells
Like blood. It's rich. Iron, copper,
Silver. The cloth must be pressed hard
Under shovelful after shovelful
Of blackness, the cloth needs to drown
In this filth we would rush to wash
From our hands, until the cloth
Begins to feed on it, breathe
Only dirt. It becomes one
With the mud. Trust the process.
Its strength is reliable, its beauty
Incomparable, its hand fit
To touch the skin of gods.
On the island Amami Oshima they have made a type of cloth since at least the 11th century that's known as mud silk. The silk thread is soaked in mud or even buried for a few months in order to get the richest deep brown/black/blue color and a certain smooth but stiff texture, almost like silk leather. The iron in the soil is a mordant. In the 18th century, only people in the ruling classes were allowed to wear it. Designers still use it today.
This is it for National Poetry Month, but I have too much work to do tonight to wrap it up proper. I might do so tomorrow, or just let it speak for itself.
Today's judge is poet Jessie Carty, who among other things has a great Tumblr. Click that thing and you won't regret it.
Image: Kentaro Takahashi, New York Times, from an article on how it's becoming prohibitively expensive to keep making the cloth by hand.