Homobonus in Primark
by Fran Lock
where will it end? the long-sleeve t-shirts
sleep, all folded over themselves like bats.
black lycra’s pirate sinew stretched to slack.
and tubes of ruined wool relax and lose
their shape. sleeves wear the gape of empty
snakes. disfigured fabrics frayed in heaps.
a woman shaking out the prissy ghosts
of a summer blouses, snagged on a hanger’s
embittered caress. for two pound ten! each
pleat a gauntlet of skirmished thread, rough to
the touch. it costs so little! the woman said.
impossible pasture of rags, dear god! it costs
so very much. where will it end? i stroke
the mesh, the weft, the weave, from cheviot to
chiffon-cling. grope a glut of sturdy twills.
my hands surge out across an odyssey
of cotton, serge. and batiste gowns are
grown in rows like off-white heads of
lettuce. crisp and sleek. and underfoot,
the scattered wits of covered buttons. look!
it’s in the sale! adrenaline and penny pinch.
cash canters horselessly between the heels.
hemlines. oh, i have loved the crushes
and the calicos, the way a seam will meet
like steadfast hands in payer. i have loved
the self-important bombazines and obsolete
brocades, stood in satin-transfix running
a bolt of blue charmeuse through my hands
like a live fish. but no, not like this. not
this way. the woman who sewed this dress,
her lungs are dressed in dust, disease.
her shoulders cramped askew. not like this,
a child in a stocking of sweat with eyes
as dull and flat as coins, his name a smudge
on a hot-wash label. the day that factory
became a dirt red funnel for human
grief. it’s just so cheap, dirt cheap!
your cambrics, buckrams heresies.
and what’s it worth, a life?
assiduous stitches, tucked and running.
in lame. gold is interwoven – secret
vein through common cloth. as pain
pursues its jagged course, in every
shirt you smooth and touch. i’ll tear
these strips. they cost so much.
The image is by Steev Burgess, who has made brilliant collages to go with Fran's poems in Raptures and Captures, available here.
Fran Lock Ph.D. is a writer, activist, and the author of seven poetry collections and numerous chapbooks. She is an Associate Editor of Culture Matters.