Years ago, at a gathering of American Artists for Diversity in Marrakech, I met the remarkable poet, C.K. Williams. He had just won the Pulitzer Prize. I had just exhibited my textile creations for the first time. He admired a piece I had stitched together, wrapping it around his shoulders until he thought he must buy it. I picked up his latest volume of poetry, Repair, and wrapped myself in his words on the plane ride home.
Invisible Mending concluded the volume, lit my imagination, and has shaped my understanding of my work ever since. I think of it especially today. The poem recalls a time when he saw three women, old as angels, working in a storefront window, who
with magnifying glasses,
needles fine as air, and shining
scissors, parted woof from warp
and pruned what would in human tissue have been sick.
I think of it today because we belong to a fabric that has suffered (as he says next),
abrasions, rents and frays,
filaments that gave way of their own accord. . .
I'm meaning our one nation, indivisible, which has been, now, divided. I'm thinking of the torn fabric which in human tissue would be called sick. I'm thinking of our unraveling which needs repair. I imagine those three women,
their hands as hard as horn,
their eyes as keen as steel . .
. .but still their heads
would lower, their teeth bare
to nip away the raveled ends.
This kind of surgical work on the fabric of our country can't be accomplished by one leader or one political party. We need storefronts of women and men gathering up worn edges to be bound . . . We need unflinching eyes to see the split open places and in tiny, Lilliputian ways, mend the schisms in our common life.
Coretta Scott King called us out as women to be the soul of this work. To be the soul of this nation. It is not only our elected leaders who must heal the fabric of who we are. It is us. It is time.
This is not soft work. This is not making pretty. This is parting woof from warp, pruning, nipping, cleaning out the cause of our ruptures. We must be the women Williams describes, who with severe but kind detachment wield their amputating shears: forgiveness and repair.
Today, I am imagining all of us, heads lowered, teeth bare, readying ourselves for this common work. May hope wrap around us all; and love, emboldened as never before in the story of this nation, lodge in our collective soul, and lead us on.
Susan Hull Walker