Ode on a sewing tin

for Mrs. Deitz and Mrs. Keats I would bring my favorite dungarees or shirts and hold them up to you, screening my shame for having lost the button when it popped, or worse, not knowing when or where. You wouldn't happen to have picked it up with the vacuum? You wouldn't happen to have one just like it? You would then take it down from the top of the fridge - the slate blue tin with Grecian gods lounging, eating grapes.

Inside the tin a jumble of magical sense: strips of elastic, narrow and wide; spools of yellow, white, and red, brown, and blue, and orange thread; snaps on cards I loved to unsnap; and needles that pricked as I rummaged.

Most important the jelly jar of buttons: shiny, dull white, buttons with eagles, buttons of leather, big pearly buttons, buttons with four holes, some with two, some with none but loops beneath.

Such currency! You'd let spill the jar, let clatter the buttons on the inverted tin top. And we'd search for the right one, which you always knew you had.

As you sewed, I counted my fortune, played banker, played tiddlywinks, or traced with my finger the figures on the tin, frozen white-robed buttonless.

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