(1969 / Port Elizabeth)

Time Running Across the Night

To watch Sitti Hoca set
her mouth and write her name
in a new script, to see
her comb wool sheared
from a sheep in Kurdistan, washed
five times, on metal teeth, then take
a wooden stick capped
with a metal hook, fit
one piece of the soft mass
to the hook and pull
with the fingers a thinning strand, rub
the long stick upwards
along her thigh and release
it to twirl the thinning mass
into thread, is to see
time made by hand.

With the fingers she counts
the steps back
to the beginnings of things,
the sheep on dry hills
while war wages over names
and borders.� And despite that,
the shearing and spinning and weaving -
in nomadic lives, all the names
for time and permanence.

On the mats beneath her feet weave
patterns named
stalk of grain,
throat of the wolf,
the evil eye,
love's hook.

I meet her in the Ethnographic Museum in Stockholm.
Europe made its certainties through leaving
and bringing back its coffers full of evidence.
Sitti Hoca is a refugee.
Europe has brought its losses home.

The patterns from the north of Sweden look
like those from the Kurdish hills, evidence
not of one consciousness flowing
through us all but, in a mat
that takes a month to weave, time running
across the night while the wolves come
over the horizon.� In the plane of thread, catching
love's brief solace
in the permanence of the fingers.

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