The Clew

In the ninth year,

a high, bright room

received the secret wheel.

Outside, near the sky,

a tangle of trees,

the sound of sea.

The spinster,

her hands showing 

wet, bloody with light,


Beneath her weight,

the stool was still.

She dressed the distaff,

hairs hanging off

like cornsilk, unspun—

a pale, worsted pistil,

which she twisted

into tufts 

of fiber, pinned

to the spindle: speed 

made a swatch 

of her fingers, 

braided, unbraided—

almost touching

the warming thread.

Being lulled,

I looked below

to her naked feet:

to where they beat

time against the treadle—


without sound.

The wooden machine

sloughed off the skein.

I bore it to the basin:

crushed cochineal,


Dripping, it dried,

caked with color

like bloodcrust in hair—

I evened the line.

Slowly the twine

whispered and wound:

a sphere.

In this way 

I gave you 

a light burden

to carry unclothed

into the tunnel—

you will want

to find your way back.