While the Light Holds



While the Light Holds

a new school dress
with hook-and-eye fastenings
handstitched in the night . . .
the seams of family life
my mother kept intact

I never knew my grandmother, yet her gap-toothed smile has graced my daughter’s face and her hand-me-down phrases, button to button, hold fast our days. A clap of thunder and I can’t fail to see her walking a jagged path to sit with the neighbour afraid of storms. Her soft shadow falls on my mother’s favourite childhood tales.

the child who stitched
without a thread
in needlework class
still too shy to ask for
what she needs

The knowledge that birth-pangs are only the beginning forms an unspoken bond between us—the daughter lost in The Blitz, the son in juvenile correction, the infant who died. The things of which we rarely speak are carried with us, passed down, handled with care, like locks of hair, pillowed in tissue. My grandmother’s loss is my mother’s, is mine.

what my mother knows
of her older sister . . .
a moth-eaten bonnet
perfect for her doll,
my grandmother’s tears


Haibun Today, a Quarterly Journal edited by Jeffrey Woodward

Volume 5, Number 3, September 2011







4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Brian
    Oct 03, 2011 @ 02:39:51

    I’m not sure I’ve yet started breathing again…Exquisite.


    • Claire
      Oct 03, 2011 @ 19:54:38

      Thank you, Brian. I’ve recently discovered tanka prose and am finding it so valuable for recording experiences and memories that require a little bit of extra explanation or some ‘framing’. These swatches from the fabric of my family history seem to lend themselves to this genre. I just hope I can do justice to my parents’ and grandparents’ recollections. Your encouragement mean so much to me. as always…


  2. Margaret Dornaus
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 19:58:53

    Lovely, Claire . . .


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