Poem of the Month
The Last Surviving Sea Silk Seamstress

By Domenica Martinello

Published on July 10, 2019

1

God said, Let there be byssus,
and out sprouted the first blond
trees of Sorrento. We sun our hair
with lemon juice like bewitched algae
on the rocks, a golden embroidery
on the sea’s harried lip. Attached
to Virgil’s olive branch was a meaty
clump of seaweed the same swollen hue
as our nipples dripping oil, a time
……………………..before currency.

The line between sea
and seamstress is three
times finer than human
hair. We called each one
……….seamistress,
pearls of saliva on a thread
1,000 years long, and soon

……….an empty loom spun out.

2

God said, Let there be math,
and we soused King Solomon
clean of his robes – he was wicked
at the breaststroke. Each boat
a little blot of treachery, so willing
to singe the sea with bleach. Whenever
we need a bone to pick our teeth, we sing
our throats into a moneyed tinkle
and a toothpick comes rowing.
Heads as hard as coins licked
green with salt and mouldering,
our hair a darkening oil slick,
fungal seafloor, smouldering.

Have you ever tried
to profit from the tides?
It’s now almost impossible
to coax myths from the blue
patterned fabric of the world.

Its lustre clogged with plastic,
backlit. Already dim human
eyes weakening like a filament
disappearing into a silk seam.

3

God said, Thoughts and prayers for this awful tragedy,
everything’s quick and bald in the twenty-first century.
The sun hangs in the sky like a logo
and we lose our honeyed fleece,
black and falling out in fistfuls.

Forehead bowed at the precipice, the fingers
of the last seamistress slowly succumb
to chalkstone, barren. The rocks grow dark
and slick at the thought: there’s no one left
to swear in. No kin or skein or women
to weave after her daughter’s refusal
of the thread between her teeth:
………………oaths and patience
………………and a tolerance
………………for mystery,
the ocean’s true productivity
turns skulls to coral reef.

Every man
adores a casket

if it’s lush and lined,
dyed seaweed green,
the cost of every shipwreck
rubbing up against
our spleen.

4

God said, I am dead,
gout and the museums killed me.
The last surviving sea silk seamstress
opens her door for free.

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I know ...

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everything is a circle completing the pages

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retranscribe the traditional legends

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One with the strength of many
alone in the distant North End.
People before profit.

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entirely unaware of
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