Neile Graham

The God of Unmendable Things

My father is dying, maybe not today, but already our threads
unravel. Or ravel. Warp and weft separate. Tangle. Both.
All I know

is I’m brittle and restless. Need to busy my hands: two lines
of stitches reattach a belt loop. Done. It’s new and an easy
fix. Heartened,

I pull at my mending pile’s strata, choosing by thread already
on the machine. White. What’s white here? First a dress,
neck frayed.

I try tucking, try taping, imagine a colour I could bind it with.
Then find the unwashable stain. I can’t fix that. Out it goes.
It must go.

I pull out my grandmother’s linen pillowcases, her initials
embroidered Art-Deco gorgeous, centered line upon line,
find the seam

tattered over 80 years, pin each gap—only three. There’s a hole
by the end seam, so I prepare to sew the seam deeper to hide
that gap. Shifting it

to pin, see a dozen such holes, the fabric worn by all the sleepers’
heads it has rested. I examine its twin. It too has weakened,
warp and weft broken

here, broken there. Set it aside. Last, my well-worn blouse,
holey and wholly unredeemable. Reckless, I stitch a dart
that might—

but doesn’t—hide breakage, touch and ignore the threadbare
holes so like those cases, ignore the tears, ignore where the neck
placket has worn

through. I slip its age-thinned comfort over my skin, so soft and frail,
I can’t care that it’s fraying, falling apart, about to fail, if just for today
it covers me.


Neile Graham currently serves as workshop director of Clarion West Writers Workshop. She holds an MFA from the University of Montana, and her poetry and fiction have been published in the U.S, the U.K., and Canada, including most recently, Interfictions, Liminality, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. She has three poetry collections, most recently Blood Memory, and a spoken word CD, She Says: Poems Selected and New. Cedar and Stone is forthcoming.

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