The Pattern

Paula Meehan
Little has come down to me of hers,
a sewing machine, a wedding band,
a clutch of photos, the sting of her hand
across my face in one of our wars

when we had grown bitter and apart.
Some say that's the fate of the eldest daughter.
I wish now she'd lasted till after
I'd grown up. We might have made a new start

as women without tags like mother, wife,
sister, daughter, taken our chance from there.
At forty-two she headed for god knows where.
I've never gone back to visit her grave.
First she'd scrub the floor with Sunlight soap,
an arm reach at a time. When her knees grew sore
she'd break for a cup of tea, then start again
at the door with lavender polish. The smell
would percolate back through the flat to us,
her brood banished to the bedroom.

As she buffed the wax to a high shine
did she catch her own face coming clear?
Did she net a glimmer of her true self?
Did her mirror tell what mine tells me?

I have her shrug and go on
knowing history has brought her to her knees.
She'd call us in and let us skate around
in our socks. We'd grow solemn as planets
in an intricate orbit about her.
She bending over crimson cloth,
the younger kids are long in bed.
Late summer, cold enough for a fire,
she works by fading light
to remake an old dress for me.
It's first day back at school tomorrow.
‘Pure lambswool - Plenty of wear in it yet.
You know I wore this when I went out with your Da.
I was supposed to be down in a friend's house,
your Granda caught us at the corner.
He dragged me in by the hair – it was long as yours then –
in front of the whole street.
He called your Da every name under the sun,
cornerboy, lout; I needn't tell you
what he called me. He shoved my whole head
under the kitchen tap, took a scrubbing brush
and carbolic soap and in ice-cold water he scrubbed
every spick of lipstick and mascara off my face.
Christ but he was a right tyrant, your Granda.
It'll be over my dead body anyone harms a hair of your head.’
She must have stayed up half the night
to finish the dress. I found it airing at the fire,
three new copybooks on the table and a bright
bronze nib, St Christopher strung on a silver wire,

as if I were embarking on a perilous journey
to uncharted realms. I wore that dress
with little grace. To me it spelt poverty,
the stigma of the second hand. I grew enough to pass

it on by Christmas to the next in line. I was sizing 
up the world beyond our flat patch by patch
daily after school, and fitting each surprising
city street to city square to diamond. I'd watch

the Liffey for hours pulsing to the sea
and the coming and going of ships,
certain that one day it would carry me
to Zanzibar, Bombay, the Land of the Ethiops.
There's a photo of her taken in the Phoenix Park
alone on a bench surrounded by roses
as if she had been born to formal gardens.
She stares out as if unaware
that any human hand held the camera, wrapped
entirely in her own shadow, the world beyond her
already a dream, already lost. She's
eight months pregnant. Her last child.
Her steel needles sparked and clacked,
the only other sound a settling coal
or her sporadic mutter
at a hard place in the pattern.
She favoured sensible shades:
Moss Green, Mustard, Beige.
I dreamt a robe of a colour
so pure it became a word.
Sometimes I'd have to kneel
an hour before her by the fire,
a skein around my outstretched hands,
while she rolled wool into balls.
If I swam like a kite too high
amongst the shadows on the ceiling
or flew like a fish in the pools
of pulsing light, she'd reel me firmly
home, she'd land me at her knees.
Tongues of flame in her dark eye
she'd say, ‘One of these days I must
teach you to follow a pattern.’
From Mysteries of the Home (2013),
Dedalus Press, Baldoyle, Dublin
The Pattern
Paula Meehan
A Journal about craft and creativity
What is Make Believe?
Make Believe Manifesto
Make Believe is designed for serendipity, scroll down and see what tickles your fancy.

But – for those that prefer a road map ...
Susan Zelouf
Delectably Ed Bing Lee
Jennifer Flegg
Sermon in Wood
Daniel Defoe
Robinson Crusoe
Cormac Boydell
A Space Beyond Words
Eleanor Flegg
Becoming Real
Heidi Julavits
Lost Mittens
Nicola Gordon Bowe
Shaven Heads and Golden Skullcaps
Catherine Ann Cullen
When the Bough Breaks
Deirdre Sullivan
Meet the Nameless Thing
Roger Bennett
Liam Flynn
Glenn Hooper
Wee Chair
Catríona ní Mhurchú
The Rabbit
Toyo Ito
Three Transparencies
Pamela Johnson
100% Cotton
Joke Robaard
How Do You Repair a Weaving Flaw
The Rubber Bandits
Controversial Artist (demo)
Vona GRoarke
The Making of Porcelain
Carlo Gébler
The ABC Con
Hans Christian Andersen
The Shirt Collar
Guillemette Bolens
Turned Tangible to the Eye
Tanya Harrod
The Last Sane Man
Susan Maxwell
The Map is Not the Territory
Glenn Adamson
Enda Wyley
Solar Eclipse
Scott Coombs
The Tao of Letterpress
Make Believe Proclamation #2 
Aubrey Flegg
A Royal Court at Killaloe
Paula Meehan
The Pattern
Nick Harkaway
Joseph McBrinn
Exhibition Review Egg Fight: Yinka Shonibare MBE
Jessica Hemmings
David Wilcox
Costume and Narrative: Narrative and Clothing
Petrus Spronk
Art and Life
Anthony OBrien
Ice Age Art
Patrick Chapman
Sentient Glass
Grace Wells
A Cure for November
Eleanor Flegg
Troubled Light
Blinded by the Light
John Hutchinson
The Gift
Patrick Chapman
The Celluloid Angel
Gemma Tipton
Plates on Walls and Pots on Plinths
Freddie Robins
The Perfect
Roger Bennett
Grace WElls
The Coat
Thank You