March 7, 2021

Threading a needle

The journey of a silk thread as it becomes part of a tapestry.

Secreted from the underbelly of the moth caterpillar called Bombyx mori, it sat in suspension for thirty-five days, a single filament one and half kilometres long. The cocoon was plunged into a hot bath to loosen the glue that held the threads together. Then it was cooled so that this thread could be unravelled. The caterpillar died in the process. That fine single strand of silk, for which a life was sacrificed, then joined three other martyrs to form a thread of one of the finest, most prized fibres in the world.

It shone in the light with a gentle glow, blushing as each of its minute three-sided faces caught a sunbeam that exposed its lissom length and supple sinews. It glowed as a moonbeam caressed its tresses. And it stretched in pleasure almost to its tensile limit pleased at its own resilience as one of the strongest natural filaments in the world. Its pride was short-lived.

Before it could revel in its own existence, the thread was trapped. Caught and wound into a skein. Then, enslaved in a ring, the yarn was packed off to a fabled land, Turkey. Here in the dyer’s harem the skein lost the innocent cream of its youth and was plunged into an indigo dye.

The indigo whispered its own sad story of capture, beatings and torture. The two strangers in a strange land wept and embraced each other. As their tears mingled the indigo imbued the silk with the softest, most beautiful hue of sorrow – blue: the kind that shines bravely in the sun and glistens pensively in the moonlight.

Today, a three denier thread of that silk waits suspended, rigid with fear, as a lady’s fingers clutch its neck and aim to push it into the oval eye of a sharp metal spike. At the last moment the thread flinches and dodges the eye of the needle.

The lady looks at the thread, then gently slides it over her tongue. The wet muscular rough appendage arouses an old memory – the glue that once held each strand tight and safe in that cocoon of the Bombyx mori caterpillar so long ago. The recollection makes all three deniers cling to each other now stiff with anticipation as they fly through the eye of the needle. It is threaded.

And the slavery of the silk is complete as the metal spike pulls all three strands together through the squared fabric to form a blue daisy in the lady’s embroidery. The silk sighs as it succumbs to its eternal punishment, forever bent, never free to flow and dance in the light again except in minute parts of its length as it weeps across the tapestry.

4 Comments on Threading a needle

  1. Rohini, this is beautiful! This will remind me of the mulberry eating caterpillers who sacrificed their lives to enrich our lives, everytime I handle something made of silk, everytime I place my feet on a silk carpet or drape a silk chiffon scarf around my shoulders!

  2. This brings up a visual — people sitting on rugs around a flickering fire, late in the evening. A poet stands up and recites a new piece of work. The work is so brilliant that it sends a frisson of delight around the room. The intensity and the imagery of the poem is so strong that a hush envelopes the tent and its occupants. Even the crickets outside seem to become silent as the moon hides behind a translucent cloud.

    Then, beginning gently, a wave of applause builds into a tsunami of calls for more … but the poet is wise enough to know that an audience is best left wanting more. She bows and silently slips away … into the night.

    Until the next time.

    Great stuff, Rohini. Keep ’em coming!

  3. What an eloquent response David!
    Thanks for your beautifully written critique. Perhaps you should consider contributing. The Flaneur would love to get reviews on art, music, etc. and Toronto and Canada aren’t really covered.
    Rohini

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