Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Looking For Lace

Lace maker, Burano Italy, March 2010

Although I am not a person who especially likes or wears lace, I admire it.  I was fascinated by the women in Italy who make handmade lace, toiling for a year to create a table cloth, or maybe a bedspread.  Cat people like me don't have lace bedspreads.  Anyway, our local library has started a contemporary fiction book discussion group, and the first title I read for it was The Lace Reader, by Bruonia Barry.  Set in contemporary Salem, the novel features a circle of women who make lace, and who learn to "read" it - much as one might read tea leaves, or palms.  There's more to it of course, an unreliable narrator who returns to Salem after the death of her aunt, and discovers there are many questions to be answered about her own life.  Each chapter is introduced with a selection from the fictional "Lace Reader's Guide."  This one at the beginning of Part Two appealed to me:

There is lace in every living thing: the bare branches of winter, the patterns of clouds, the surface of water as it ripples in the breeze . . . . Even the wild dog's matted fur shows a lace pattern if you look at it closely enough. 

That little idea sent me out to my spring garden to look for lace.

Mementos, 1
by W.D. Snodgrass

Sorting out letters and piles of my old
    Canceled checks, old clippings, and yellow note cards   
That meant something once, I happened to find
    Your picture. That picture. I stopped there cold,   
Like a man raking piles of dead leaves in his yard
             Who has turned up a severed hand.

Still, that first second, I was glad: you stand
    Just as you stood—shy, delicate, slender,
In that long gown of green lace netting and daisies
    That you wore to our first dance. The sight of you stunned   
Us all. Well, our needs were different, then,
             And our ideals came easy.

Then through the war and those two long years
    Overseas, the Japanese dead in their shacks   
Among dishes, dolls, and lost shoes; I carried
    This glimpse of you, there, to choke down my fear,   
Prove it had been, that it might come back.
             That was before we got married.

—Before we drained out one another’s force   
    With lies, self-denial, unspoken regret
And the sick eyes that blame; before the divorce
    And the treachery. Say it: before we met. Still,   
I put back your picture. Someday, in due course,
             I will find that it’s still there.

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