Poetry Sunday: ‘Cross Stitch’, by Angela Narciso Torres


Cross stitch

At her son’s ball game
in the shade of a straw hat
she is working on the iris patch
that she started seven years ago
fill the long days before his birth.
In the afternoons she walked through squares on fabric
like on a calendar, stopping when
the pains shook his sweaty hands.

Now lifting the cream white cloth
for the first time since birth
it begins the long-awaited return of the needle
along the edge of an expanded sheet.
She remembers: the light of October,
as he lay down on the starched square
which rested on her tense stomach. half a pear
on the windowsill. The near maturity of waiting.

She touches the strands of color—
gold leaf, sage, wine, cherry. Their eyes
draw patterns on empty lines
forcing them to proceed
years. As if the stitches
could have the shape of her firstborn
who now reaches, squinting in the outer field,
arms outstretched towards the infinite blue.

First published in the North American Journal and then in blood orange and reprinted here with permission from Aquarius Press.

Angela Narciso Torresthe first book of, blood orange, won the Willow Books Literature Award for Poetry and can be ordered at Aquarius Press. His work appears in Spoon River Poetry Review, Kyoto Review, Colorado Review, Cimarron and Bateau ivre magazine. A graduate of the Warren Wilson MFA program and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Angela has received scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Illinois Arts Council and the Ragdale Foundation. New city The magazine named her one of Chicago’s Lit 50s in 2016. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Manila, she is the poetry editor for RHINOCEROS, advertising coordinator for Woman Made Gallery Literary Events and reader for New England Review. For more information visit www.angelanarcisotorres.com.

Poet’s Note

I wrote this poem when I was pregnant with my youngest son. At the time, his two older brothers, both under the age of 5, were in a T-ball league. Like many young mothers, my life revolved around the various activities of the children: driving them to and from school, T-ball training, games, play dates, home dates. the doctor, etc. I had just started writing poetry a few years ago, as an attempt to create an internal ‘room of my own’, a room that I could take with me and into which I would retreat whenever I wanted to escape life. mundane household chores and parenthood. Like the little cross-stitch flower patches I bought at a museum store to work on at leisure, a poem was wearable – I could work either watching my sons practice or waiting for them to come out of the classroom. school. Writing poetry was both akin to and diametrically opposed to the slow, precise work of sewing x’s on a piece of fabric to make it an entire image. The first activity was almost insane and stereotypical – the model provided, and the other more cerebral, and requiring one to push the boundaries of any prescribed design or structure. Yet both demanded the kind of absorption that served as a portal to this “room of one’s own” – a place that allowed everyone to think long and hard and create worlds in a wallless sanctuary where no one but me could. enter.

Next page: Rebecca Foust, poetry editor, shares her comment on “Cross Stitch“.


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