Beth Paulson

Mother Sews My Dress for Eighth Grade Graduation

In a corner of the basement my slim trousered mother sits,
her dark hair tied back, leaning toward a small light.  

One hand on the shiny wheel, the other holds the pieces firm
while the needle speeds up and down. Her slippered foot presses

releases the pedal, the Singer hums, slows, back-tacks.
For years we watched her wield silver Wiss scissors to cut cloth
notch, trim and snip threads, learned the nap and name of fabrics
broadcloth, corduroy, taffeta she straight-pinned to tissue patterns

that floated above our dining table. When we were old enough
she taught us measure and mark, keep stitches neat and even

to pick out mistakes and resew, always steam seams open,
leave enough room for hems to be let down.

Mother, who was so sure her sewing would make us girls
noticed also for our good grades and manners and that

we would not fail to marry well. Today I want her calling me
downstairs after school, bossing me to stand straight and still,
taking my measure with steel-blue eyes, her smile as she slips
over my head the basted bodice of pink dotted swiss

her young hands that curve around my slender waist
and lightly brush against my just-forming breasts.

Beth Paulson taught English at California State University Los Angeles for over 20 years and now lives in southwestern Colorado where she leads Poetica, a workshop for area poets, and co-founded the Open Bard Literary Series. Her poems have appeared recently in Able Muse Review, Cloudbank, and Bryant Literary Review, and her sixth collection, Luminous, is forthcoming in spring 2021 from Kelsay Books.



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