WARP AND WEFT

There was no slack in the warp and weft
my husband's great-grandma
ran her fingers over.


A burler in a Rhode Island mill,
her job was to feel
for knots in the weave.


She wore her fingerprints away
and her skin to such thinness
blood might seep through.


Did the hours pass evenly
in the rumble of the loom:
again, again, gaining


in its appetite for cotton?
Her father-in-law had returned
from war and Confederate prison


to careless workers dropping scissors
from the upper floors of the mill
through slots where the driving belts ran.


The weave rent time after time.
If that happens again I shall quit
and never work in a mill….


It did, and he did,
wrote his grandson,
my husband's grandpa.


My father taught me a knot he’d learned
as a boy, mending clothes
when thread was scarce,


and he was left with only
half an inch of thread
between cloth and needle.


The needle couldn’t flex,
so he used the eye to lead the thread
back through the loop,


and tightened it.
Thread took no extensions,
unlike the iron thread he salvaged


on the streets of Wanchai
and soldered with rosin-scented flux.
He cobbled together a radio


where current flowed
through node and wire alike: threads of logic
under music cantabile.


When my father first showed me
a logical loop, I didn't
follow the syntax.


For i = 0 to i <10
i = i + 1
Next


I got the drift,
as in the increment of age,
the cycle of monsoons;


I like to study iteratives:
from crack to crackle, drip to dribble,
wrest to wrestle.


I condense the cacophonous words
between my parents
into a single frequentative.


My father built circuits
to turn speech into hexadecimals
my mother couldn't decipher.


For a living, I have learned to code
in a language where objects
are discrete,


and strands
of my mother's hair
are not allowed to enter.


There are burls in my logic,
stray insects so small I can't feel
with my fingertips.


From a roving of discarded hair
and insect wings, I weave
for my children to ravel.