339 – The Lady With The Needle

Poem number 339


The Lady with the Needle


The lady with the needle sits, just sewing little tags

Onto socks and shirts and trousers and a brand new nylon bag

Her son starts school tomorrow, so she’s naming all his stuff –

So new and clean and perfect, not yet worn or torn or scuffed


I watch her as she works away, a distance in her eyes

And I know she’s not just sewing tags, but starting her goodbyes

He’s four years old and up to now just ours and ours alone

But tomorrow when he goes to school he’s started leaving home


First one school and then another, growing all the while

Bigger, faster, stronger, lighting others with that smile

No longer ours but everyone’s, a cog in the machine

Then out the door, an adult, when he gets to be eighteen.


So now she labels all the clothes we’ve bought with gentle care

But she’s also marking him, our lad, and saying “You beware!

This label shows he’s mine, MY boy, you best not be unkind

Or I’ll come and rip your eyes out and cut chunks from your behind!”


The boy, the clothes, both labelled, both pristine and oh so new

Both will get a little worn before the term is through

So we’ll mend the clothes and hug the boy and keep our fingers crossed

That neither gets too battered, that no vital parts get lost


And in the end that’s probably as much as we can do

We have to trust the wider world to care for what we grew

So the lady sits in silence, simply sewing little tags

On his shirts and socks and trousers, and his brand new nylon bag.


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