24 May 2016

Mending

I like mending clothes. Other things too, occasionally, but clothes more. Sometimes I like to mend in a way that makes the mending stand out. I mended this pair of trousers for my daughter several years ago. The trousers are very ordinary ones from Ackermans, I think, but the patch was a freebie bit from Mantis (see some here) when we were trying to choose the fabric for our lounge curtains.


A long while ago, I published a poem about something very similar. Here it is.

Darning

Not surreptitiously,
but so as to make the darns and patches
themselves the focus of light.

I hope to do this
over the hole in my soul
you made.


The poem was published in my collection Fourth Child (Modjaji) in 2007 but it was written a long time before that, when I was studying. I got the idea from a book that I permanently borrowed from a hotel because I couldn't bear to part with it. It was called The Maker of Heavenly Trousers by Daniele Varรจ and was first published in Oct 1935 (imagine putting the month on the imprint page of a book now).

This was the part of the book that made an impression on me, and which eventually found voice in the poem (page 32, seventh edition).
The verb "to darn" is explained in my pocket dictionary as follows: "To mend by imitating the texture of the stuff, with thread and needle." But this definition does not correspond to the work accomplished by good Chinese housewives. When they mend a sock, or put a patch into an article of clothing, they do not try "to imitate the texture of the stuff". Their art makes no attempt at concealment: it even takes a certain pride in revealing itself.
On the worn heel of a woollen sock of mine the Mother of Little Lu once embroidered two scarlet bats. On the seat of an old pair of silk pyjamas she put a patch which was a life-study of no small artistic merit. On the right was a monkey, cut out of a piece of yellow silk, with a long, long arm that stretched across to reach an apple on the other side."
No doubt this book suffers from rampant orientalism, but I loved it nevertheless, with a less analytical part of myself.

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