The raveled sleeve of care

Two months ago, my mother drew her last, labored breath. I woke up this morning from a brutal, punishing dream with a brutal, punishing headache that hasn’t let up.

And yet, I am writing: scribbling in my journal, typing on my laptop. Writing poems, or bits of them — a dangerous pastime, given that I really don’t know how to write poetry. Everything I’ve written today is about loss, and grief, and fear — mostly fear of loss and grief.

I also fear failure. But in a fit of recklessness — or, let’s call it, freeing myself from perfectionism — I’ve decided to post this one.

Carnegie Tech detail

What We Wanted
An alma mater sweatshirt,
ash and rust, scarcely worn:
Dad made his own warmth.

After he died
I took a year to claim it, gingerly,
from the closet of leftovers
nobody wanted.

I wanted.

Once redeemed
it hugged me through four long, bitter
New England winters. Then:
an elbow hole. This spring the hole
blossomed and grew,
leaving more hole
than sleeve.

Sorely worn. But still I wear it.

Now Mom’s closets are empty.
We took what we wanted,
gave away the rest.

A painting, some muu muus.
A raveled sleeve.

Who will redeem this hole?

What is the Mary Oliver Challenge? Glad you asked! You can read about it here.

5 thoughts on “The raveled sleeve of care

  1. I was blown away by your poem, Carole. So simple and moving. You’re very talented. I showed it to Allen – we are both impressed. Losing your last parent is so hard, Carole. We’re thinking of you and sending our love.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. From the time we were children, we have wanted to wear our parents’ clothes. We needed their hugs. I’m so happy your heart moved you to claim these garments so that you could still feel their hugs. The raveled sleeve represents how fragile your ties are. They are raveled, but they are still there. Carole, this is a real and beautiful poem, a treasure. Thank you so much for sharing your heart with us.


  3. I love the poem. It’s beautifully written and evocative. I especially love the phrases “ash and rust” and “dad made his own warmth.” They say so much about how you feel about him in both life and death.The image of wearing the soft warmth of a sweatshirt of a much loved person is something many, if not all of us can relate to. Capitalism has even created a whole marketing thing based on our longing to wear the clothes of our loved ones – shirts/pants for women called “the boyfriend shirt, sweater, pant, etc” It’s a bit like temporarily slipping into the skin of your beloved. So comforting. As for the raveling -even without the sleeve – and in fact even without either sleeve, there’s still a lot left of the sweatshirt. And perhaps even when all you have left is a little square of fabric, threadbare and no longer wearable, those fibers will continue to hold meaning for you, reminding you of how you are tied to the past, and how you carry your father (and now your mother as well) in the pocket of your heart.

    Liked by 1 person

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