Clothwebs and Cobwebs


Poets, thank you for this week’s entries. I was tempted by all, but chose Berwyn Moore’s stanza as most fitting:

Society … is founded upon cloth,
clothwebs and cobwebs, dead fleeces of sheep.
Logic-choppers stupidly grope about.
Hunger-bitten, they kiss your pudding-cheek.

Moore’s selection of “clothwebs and cobwebs” reminds us of the transience of fashion, its ability to numb and mummify, and its propensity to insulate the rich from the distress of others. “Dead fleeces of sheep” imply their opposite, the legendary golden fleece sought by Jason. The send-up of “logic-choppers” is both comical and expressive of the spirit of Carlyle, especially the slightly creepy “pudding-cheek.”

In second place we have Paul Michelsen’s haunting arrangement:

Visible and tangible products of the Past, again, I reckon
in this solemn moment comes a man, or monster, scrambling
Not like a dead city of stones, yearly crumbling
this paltry little Dog-cage of an Earth.

In his prophetic rendering of Carlyle, Michelsen makes the very Earth both garment and prison.

Our third-place stanza is Jordan Sanderson’s:

Work of genius like the very Sun has
Black spots and troubled nebulosities.
Tailoring, man proceeds by Accident.
We hope we are strangers to all the world.

Vladimir Mayakovsky’s 1914 poem styles him “A Cloud in Trousers.”  Perhaps most of us more resemble Carlyle and Sanderson’s “troubled nebulosities,” tailors proceeding “by Accident,” and sometimes creating beauty.

Indeed, we find lovely moments in each contributed stanza. Who could ignore LaWanda Walters’s genius selection of “pursy chuckle”; or Paul Michelsen’s discovery of “red streaks of unspeakable grandeur”; or, for that matter, Patricia Smith’s choice find, “free flight of vestural Thought?”

Our cento so far reads as follows:

With what shall this Philosophy of Clothes
clothe its naked Truth—rough woolen cloak
of the countryside or silken mantle—
obscuring yet exposing its muscle, its os?
—Patricia Smith
Society…is founded upon cloth,
clothwebs and cobwebs, dead fleeces of sheep.
Logic-choppers stupidly grope about.
Hunger-bitten, they kiss your pudding-cheek.

—Berwyn Moore

To lead into next week’s prompt, here is a brief poem from my first book (published by Owl Creek Press) Kneeling Between Parked Cars.

Learning to Sew

Crossing my legs in front of you, I am
your tailor.

I will make you a suit.
What size? The size of a tree
coming into its own.

A jacket with elbow room
for a small stream.

And what shall I use for a pattern?
The Mississippi River Basin.

You will wear this suit
only to the big occasions.

To the building
of anthills,

to the opening
of a door.

Don’t look,
here it is now,

shouldering its way
into the room.

Next week will unveil our ending: we are designing a three-piece cento. The rules have altered. For our finale, I’d like you to use any published writing on fashion. Any genre is fair game. You may mash your found language with Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus or leave Carlyle out—your choice. The only rule for the stanza is that it must contain four lines. In other words, you may forget (or keep) iambic pentameter. You may also employ your own wording for transitions, or for other relatively small purposes. We are redesigning our garment, making it more fluid. I hope you will enjoy brainstorming just what might constitute a perfect fit. Remember to credit your source(s), and to submit your efforts no later than midnight Eastern Time on Saturday, September 26, 2015.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Angela Ball is a professor of English at the University of Southern Mississippi. She is the author of five poetry collections, including, most recently, Night Clerk at the Hotel of Both Worlds.


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