Mother conceives the sun in the dark hours
before morning, grows large, and births the sun
at dawn. The promise of the sun, at least,
she keeps. The sun is steadfast, we say,
crediting it not Mother,
though she’s the one who births it
every morning like a warm egg, she’s the one
split open by its passage. She does this for us.
But the moon, that which the old farmers called
a waxing and waning poem, the moon is vexed
and swells monstrous. The moon has waxed
for near six hundred days and all the babies
are born squalling, pining, birds-of-the-increase.
Mother’s doing. Her daughter will die, bound
with night’s cold light. Mother knows
we don’t need the moon, but love it.
She knows the moon is not necessary light.
For us, Mother wants night to be night.
Crossing threads of different colors, invoking spinning goddesses at the loom, singing litanies and incantations into the weaving, bishops in medieval Europe labeled women in their webs as witches. They warned the church, some people wore clothing that had been sung over or blessed.
Continuous weave, woven
on a triangle loom,
nails stud the frame for anchoring.
The yarn the color of thick oatmeal
local yarn, local sheep. A green swath
down the center for vitality,
the tree’s green wick, field
rising up, a grassy stream.
Shawl for my mother, my mother’s heart
so near to being sliced
by men with knives, bone saw,
and clamps. My mother between
bleached sheets and a metal table, heart stopped.
Shawl, blessed with a Christian prayer,
not a pagan prayer,
because my mother is Christian.
Cursed over a few times in the making
when the yarn slipped my hook, slipped the nails.
Shawl, blessed by a river
by a woman pastor
who sits behind me in a rowing shell
three nights a week,
our seats and oars moving in tandem.
The sky was three colors of purple
for the blessing,
we were wet-through with sweat
and the river. I was thinking of egrets,
the nesting pair that watched
our eight-person boat embark
and return to the dock earlier that night.
Their long, long legs matching
our long oars. We said God and Jesus,
father, Lord. And strength and healing.
We said Amen. We didn’t say Minerva,
Brigantia or Aquae Sulis (waters of Sul).
We didn’t invoke Brigit,
goddess of poets and weavers.
We did not lay the shawl out overnight
like Brigit’s mantle to receive the healing dew.
The river smelled of shad and a mineral tang
I smudged, along with my daughter smell,
into the green continuous weave.
Sarah Sousa is the author of three poetry collections, most recently See the Wolf, published by CavanKerry Press, and the chapbook Yell. Her poems have appeared in the Massachusetts Review, North American Review, Verse Daily and Tupelo Quarterly, among others. She is a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellow and is on the board of directors of Perugia Press.