Aprons are on my mind. I sewed four of them, starting with a free pattern online (https://suzyquilts.com/free-modern-patchwork-apron-tutorial/), and soon started to modify the pattern to make it my own, changing this and that, adding pockets. Then I went to Fabricland with my youngest son and he chose fabric for an apron—animals of the African Savannah—sepia on beige. He chose a bold white on brown polka dot fabric for the lining. When I finish the apron, he thinks he might wear it while tattooing (it will get covered in ink). I bought some lovely tablecloths and placemats at Value Village, piled up now on my sewing table, which I’ll cut and shape into another apron for a friend who loves purples, pinks, and blues.
What is the appeal of aprons? I love their practicality, their long history worn not just as a cover by women to protect their good clothes when they cooked and cleaned, but worn also by craftspeople, tradespeople, waiters, workers of all kinds throughout the ages. The cobbler at his bench, the candlestick maker pouring wax, the man with tongs at the forge, the woman throwing pots, the child sloshing poster paints over a piece of newsprint.
I want to write a poem about aprons. During my year off, I signed up for “Masterclass,” an online offering of video classes by “masters.” For us, this expense has been mostly a waste of money. We paid $240 for a one-year subscription because I was intrigued by the idea of learning how to write a novel from Margaret Atwood. I soon discovered that although she is a wonderful writer, she does not inspire me. She seems truculent in her mini-lectures, and she says things like, “the garbage can is your best friend.” I feel discouraged. So I watch a few videos of David Sedaris talking about how to write humour. He says we should write in a journal. Of course. Don’t we all already? But I’ll never be very funny. So I abort that class.
I don’t want to learn percussion from Sheila E. or Skateboarding from Tony Hawk. Nor am I interested in cooking with Wolfgang Puck or building a fashion brand with Diane von Furstenberg. But Billy Collins, the poet, seems promising. So I start to listen to his videos, to read his poems, and I feel encouraged. “Poems are the expression of thoughts and feelings, but they are no longer embarrassing, sort of like a diary without a lock.” I like that. He invites us to write a sentence, the first sentence, and then shape it into four lines for the first quatrain of the poem. So I do that. And then I write another, and another. And the poem, like the apron, grows.
I want to write a poem about aprons
The boy who wore my first apron—a
simple Home-Ec project in denim—was
jeered at by the other kids in the mall
where we hung out to smoke and flirt.
He pranced around the spewing fountain
in the badly sewn thing, making lewd
gestures, cupping his groin. Everybody
mocked, so I joined in their laughter.
Uneven seams, unravelling, only an hour
old and the pocket falling off already: a
garment of mistakes. Sewing is for old women,
home economics a massive bore.
In those years, a pattern coalesced:
over and over, I betrayed myself.
The second arrow, finding my raw
heart, buried his head in the pulp.
Perhaps I want to sew aprons
now to atone for my crimes against
myself, self-betrayal just another
stab at finding love when I was young.
I dump drawers of fabric on my
sewing room floor, mounds of blue
and green crash like gelid waves
off the coast, a tossed bed for the sunset.
Colours and patterns converse
as I move the hot iron over their
grateful hides. Next, the rotary cutter
slices straight lines to invent a silhouette.
The machine hums with ambition,
the brown paper, resisting my pins,
crinkles and bends, and I cut with the
grand yellow-handled scissors—a shape.
The thing comes together by itself—I, only
a hand maiden, am guided to choose, to match,
to press, and slice, and pin, to cut and shape
and press again, deferring to a greater power.
National Public Radio plays jazz 24 hours a day,
the jazz gem of the Palouse. I love to hear the DJ say,
“the jazz gem of the Palouse,” sweet assonance.
So, breezy drums, sax, trombone, a plucky bass,
they blow the score for a blockbuster movie, a
dramady called Madeline Makes Aprons,
the story of a girl who slowly learns the art
of loving the shadow, the mistake, the first creation.