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ISSUE:  Autumn 1998
In the sewing room
the mail-order Singer
with its chrome-rimmed
wheel and gleaming needle
was turned under
to make a desk while
mother started dinner.
I faced west where
the window shimmered.

For an hour I rehearsed
my letters, spelling
everything visible—
zipper and scissors,
thimbles and spools.
The oval mirror made
the wallpaper zinnias
flower still further,
and a mantel clock
held the minutes back.

The Eagle pencil
in my cramped hand
scratched fishhook
j or an I like a needle.
Late sunlight glazed
the holly leaves silver
beyond the peeling sill.

While I squinted hard
at the Blue Horse paper,
the twilight world
held painfully still.

When I was finished,
each curve and flourish
set in disciplined rows,
fresh tea with ice
appeared at my elbow,
the yellow c of lemon
in the tumbler’s perfect o,
and if mother had praise
for what I had done,
I would shine all evening
bright as a straightpin
while the new moon
with its careless serifs
cleared the trees and rose.

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