My neighbor, Rodica, brought me the first pair
She knitted them with Romanian yarn,
super-washed wool soft enough
for the newborn hats
she knitted and donated
to the local neonatal intensive care unit.
I slipped my feet into them,
as though into loaves of bread
the color of walnuts, linden honey
like the loaves of bread she bought
from a bakers’ back-alley door
in Bucharest, when white loaves were as illegal
as birth control pills,
and the pharmacist Rodica worked for vanished
after dispensing them to women
desperate enough to drink detergent
to rid themselves of babies
before the secret police could autopsy their stillborns.
When she arrived in America,
she gave up her Orthodox priest for a Baptist preacher,
sang for a church with a sign out front quoting Jeremiah,
“Before I formed you
in the womb
I knew you.” But she already knew
all women’s secrets
are best shared among women,
in their own homes
in whispers over wine
she made from the fermented Damson plums
she grew in her side yard.
As we sat together
she sang Doina, Romanian laments,
her knitting needles flickering
from cuff, to heel, to foot, to toes,
her socks becoming brighter
because of the darkness,
each stitch a reminder
that a gift cannot be made
unless there is someone to receive it.
newest book is Second Shift: Essays (Del Sol Press). She is the author of In the Garden of Stone (Hub City Press), winner of the South Carolina Novel Prize and a Gold IPPY Award. She’s also published two short-story collections: Savage Pilgrims (Serving House Books) and My Mother’s War Stories (Winnow Press), the latter of which received the 2004 Winnow Press fiction prize. Her web chapbook, Wash Day, appears in the Web Del Sol International Chapbook Series.
Her nonfiction, short stories, and essays have appeared in journals such as Denver Quarterly, The Georgia Review, The Louisville Review, Puerto del Sol, New Letters, and Shenandoah. Selections from her photo essay, “White Blossoms,” appeared in Earth Hymn (Volume 6 of the KYSO Flash Anthology), with the full essay published online in Issue 12 of KYSO Flash.
Ms. Tekulve has received scholarships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She teaches in the BFA and MFA writing programs at Converse University.
Author’s website: https://susantekulve.com/