Spinner, Shepetovka 1912
I looked away from the unwed word:
Spinster. Forward thinking, each revolution
of fiber twisted into yarn, cranking
through the bobbin, my hand on the Mother-of-All
as, all around, women transform into wives,
pulsing, choking like a machine in sheets
nightmare red. Mother told me
I looked pretty holding a glass of milk.
Leaving the country is safer with a man.
English signatures, whispering papers.
The matchmaker stared at my family’s home
peeling at its foundation, walls crumbling,
chunks of plaster missing, muddied web of wooden supports.
I imagined the black travel dress I’d wear next to a man
sharp as a horizon, pepper-haired, under sea-stroked sky.
I worked outside next to the house, spinning
all day. I spun the Drive Wheel, and dreams,
my legs between the legs of the contraption,
conceiving my handiwork. Always
barefooted little girls with long hair
came close – my wheel spinning, my brown bob,
my layered dress, my downcast eyes,
my sturdy boots, cuts on my hands I hid within
the wheel’s motion, a virgin still-life.
For sale. Nice fabrics. I was seen
taken to America, my body cracked open, mothered
fertility on a table. A good bride.
I evaporated into milk.
Jamie Wendt is the author of the poetry collection Fruit of the Earth (Main Street Rag, 2018), which won the 2019 National Federation of Press Women Book Award in Poetry. Her poems and essays have been published in various literary journals and anthologies, including Feminine Rising, Green Mountains Review, Lilith, Jet Fuel Review, the Forward, Third Wednesday, and others. She contributes book reviews to the Jewish Book Council as well as other publications, including Literary Mama and Mom Egg Review. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Nebraska Omaha. She teaches English and lives in Chicago with her husband and two kids.