American Life in Poetry: Column 270


We are sometimes amazed by how well the visually impaired navigate the world, but like the rest of us, they have found a way to do what interests them. Here Jan Mordenski of Michigan describes her mother, absorbed in crocheting.


Even after darkness closed her eyes ?
my mother could crochet. ?
Her hands would walk the rows of wool ?
turning, bending, to a woolen music.

The dye lots were registered in memory: ?
appleskin, chocolate, porcelain pan, ?
the stitches remembered like faded rhymes: ?
pineapple, sunflower, window pane, shell.

Tied to our lives those past years ?
by merely a soft colored yarn, ?
she’d sit for hours, her dark lips ?
moving as if reciting prayers, ?
coaching the sighted hands.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©1995 by Jan Mordenski, and reprinted from “Quiet Music: A Plainsong Reader,” Plainsong Press, 1995, by permission of Jan Mordenski and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.