Silk Road

The Silk Road never came to Cleveland.
But here, a thousand years adrift,
two women work a great loom
beneath the science museum.

One woman balances overhead,
poised as a bird on a branch;
an impossible thing, warped as an Escher,
this woman on the tree of the loom,
gathering silk strings in her hand,
while her companion weaves
patterns onto golden fabric:
flower, leaf, branch.

Advertisement

I have read about empires, soldiers,
the Great Wall, gunpowder, fireworks,
all of it strange and fantastical,
but not as preposterous as this notice
informing visitors that after a day’s labor
—fingers, eyes, back aching—
a weaver would climb down to view
four inches of finished brocade.

Four inches.
Even if the mandarins
praised craft and crafters,
even if the weavers took joy
in catching beauty in their hands,
even then, I see only
the tall trees of the looms.

And the birds in them
unable to fly.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Our Spring 2018 Literary issue has a little something for everyone.
James T. KeaneApril 23, 2018
 Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on April 18. (CNS/Paul Haring)
The appointments are part of an ongoing effort to give a greater role to women in the work of the Roman Curia offices, the central administration of the Catholic church.
Gerard O’ConnellApril 21, 2018
Ivette Escobar, a student at Central American University in San Salvador, helps finish a rug in honor of the victims in the 1989 murder of six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter on the UCA campus, part of the 25th anniversary commemoration of the Jesuit martyrs in 2014. (CNS photo/Edgardo Ayala) 
A human rights attorney in the United States believes that the upcoming canonization of Blessed Oscar Romero in October has been a factor in a decision to revisit the 1989 Jesuit massacre at the University of Central America.
Kevin ClarkeApril 20, 2018
Journalists photograph the lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in California in 2010. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
In California, Catholic opponents of the death penalty are trying to protect the largest population of inmates awaiting execution in the Western Hemisphere.
Jim McDermottApril 20, 2018