Annika Earley, Swarm, cut paper, 22 x 30 in., 2019.

In this poem about honoring a friend and long time peace and justice worker, Pat Ranzoni combines the micro and macro, the immediate moment of searching for lost pinking shears with the larger issue of injustice and the loss of national values. Images of fabric and thread and the lost shears become metaphors for the larger situation we face in the world. The whole poem beautifully combines a critique of our contemporary politics with praise for a stalwart worker for justice. All of this occurs in a rich mix of news and daily life. 

Pat Ranzoni is Poet Laureate of Bucksport and an artist who works in words, paint, needlework, and other media. She has been published widely, and her anthology, Still Mill: Poems, Stories & Songs from Making Paper in Bucksport, Maine 1930–2014 (North Country) was in the 2019 UMVA exhibit, The Way Life Is: Maine Working Families and Communities curated by John Ripton, who also invited her to read at the opening.

Harriet H. Price is a writer and activist who has lived and worked in Maine for 50 years. She has worked for the American Friends Service Committee, the US Commission on Civil Rights and the US Senate American Indian Policy Review Commission. Price is the author of essays, articles and op-eds, and of Blackberry Season: A Time to Mourn, A Time to Heal (Innisfree Press, 1993). She is co-author with Gerald E. Talbot of Maine’s Visible Black History: The First Chronicle of Its People (Tilbury House, 2006). Her life’s work has been recognized by the University of Maine’s 2007 Maryann Hartman Award. Her other arts include oil painting, piano, and stitchery.

          Betsy Sholl, MAJ Poetry Editor



Being an elder Maine woman’s  free – said picture

for Harriet Price’s 80th Birthday Season 2020

 – That’s what I’ll be doing should anyone call

or come to the house—looking high and low. All the harder,

pierced by the news I can’t get without all this trum-trum

ragging on the air.


                        To bear it I need my pinking shears more

than ever for making a needle book for Harriet’s 80th. With

the widest-eyed needles, all the better to see for threading,

in honor of her life-long vision what she’s seen and still sees

and has sown with, fighter for Equality and Peace her whole

life spent mending and gathering up ends and strands and

patches of proofs and samples, evidences needing to be saved

and shown so that, having sewn her an apron and poem years

ago, this is the best I can manage now with these threadbare

hands and because she’s one of the few who would recognize

and prize it being a frugal by – hand Yankee seamstress

like her mother.                                                                              


                        If I can just smooth the grains and biases of

my anger, worry, and sorrow towards this man’s fabrications

and ugly embellishments I might remember the whereabouts

of this old-fashioned tool for perking up what remains to raise

up the beauty in our lives, all we’ve survived, never needed

more, I dare say, because of him and his just – won’t – do backing.


                        Not in the scissors drawer of the chest in 

my sewing corner with my wedding dress shears and four

generations of plain utilitarian ones that have cut the whole

lengths of continents and back I swear believing no borders.

And delicate engraved ones designed for embroidery and

fancy work. Capable of trimming scraps for joining “crazy”

quilting, turning the plain–even damaged–into the splendid.

The cringe-worthy into the awe-inspiring the way we long

for a leader to do.  And, I can’t keep from saying,

how to take up crewel vs. cruel.  


                        But here’s the 2 pound bag of Laura Ashley

remnants I could afford from their 1979 collection on sale

at their bargain outlet 40 years ago. Half Harriet’s life. And

mine. Becoming my most treasured stash drawn from sparingly

all this time for special.


                        Like the little turquoise calico kite I appliqued

with multi-colored floss tail and his name across hand – dyed

occupied sky to memorialize the Palestinian boy killed

having lunch on their roof with his mother. And the Brewer

Chamberlain Park runaway slave likeness for the Amistad

square with satin stitched NORTH TO FREEDOM arrow 

up its green patterned Maine. Now this. Pricks of blood and 

tears on everything through the years we’ve made, we sisters.


                        Like this needle book, Grammie Hattie’s kind,

imagined for Harriet this time, only the most storied fabrics

will do, with pages of flannel for rows of “sharps” (as needles

used to be called) pinked along edges making a miniature zig–

zag pattern indicative of tiny ricrac tracks. No other map

will do. The spine stitched through its fold, a pearl drop

button and reinforced loop for its catch. Signed, dated,

and kissed on its way through history downstate in time.


                        Not in the desk mug of writing utensils nor in

the cupboard with the making supplies. Nor in Mama’s ash

potato picking basket for pieces in progress oh when will he

hush and feel the children wailing along the walls and cages

the way we do day and night, night and day please may I find 

my pinking shears for working through these sobs and fears.                                 


                        Not with the holiday wrappings still on the card

table nor on the shelf with my bowl of washcloth knitting for the

kids. Time was, Harriet went to jail protesting the likes of him

and his gang, I would if I could. Oh what has become of us what

being done in our names. Not on the kitchen sideboard with

the grocery list.


                        So unless I can recall where these scissors are

please soon–this will have to serve as an I.O.U. in my best

hand, sealed with a prayer that, like my pinking shears, a much

minor lapse by worlds, our poor nation is only temporarily missing   

and if we keep working and searching – everywhere – refusing

the loss, swearing on all holy books – not least, needles – to take

greater care, ever after, of the realm we’ve dared dream, but failed,

we’ll bring about the return, earned and never needed more.