On shrinking cloth
The heat of a warm water washing or heated tumble dry or, in the image of today’s poem, a flap out on the sunny line, the stretched out fibers of an unshrunken cloth relax. The individual patch of cloth becomes stronger. The individual fibers become relaxed in the heat. That sounds nice — constitutive, formational, good — but of course there is a cost to this new birth. Which one among you is not stitched to a cloth from which you are tearing away? I know I am not blessed with such a condition. And I am learning to live with that reality and suffer through the seam ripper’s hook.
Specifically, I’m thinking of the racism to which I find myself stitched, but there are many thing from which we must be cut. The goodness of becoming new and shrunk and strong, does not feel good. Jesus’ is saying something new to me today. Take it for yourself it seems to fit. The new thought is this: His little parables about wineskins and cloth are not cautionary tales. They go beyond categorization of different types of people, cloths and skins. the parables are descriptive and prophetic: You will tear. you will burst.
Seth Martin wrote a beautiful line in a beautiful song that we like to sing in Circle of Hope. (Rob , Jess and friends sang it a couple of weeks ago for #worshipwednesday). “We wear this seamless cloth of joy and loss/Severed roots and limbs/Time to start again/Start with I am Thine.” Yeah, that’s how it feels — sweet joy and bitter sorrow, becoming new and crying as we do. Even though we go where we are led hungrily.
A Poem for the Seamless Cloth of Joy and Loss
I’m feeling seamed edges pull,
Unshrunken, out to dry,
The warmth is pleasant with eyes closed —
Face up to the sky.
The tightness of a tear-wet cheek
Will also come to mind,
As heat from distant star allows
My quiet eyes to find
A new expression of the truth
I knew from deep inside,
That cannot help but stretch until
The very last is cried.
More composed myself, binded, bound
To windy dancing sheet,
Conviction tight and resolute,
But union incomplete.
I tear from that to which I’m stitched
Even as I come to life,
The only way to love me seems
To be a sharpened knife.
You can listen to me read it here.
Image and Poem by Ben White