Allison Funk

A Ghazal Written After Reading a Notebook Kept by Louise Bourgeois

A good mother needs a bad, a seamstress her thread.
Stitch a wife to mistress, imagine that thread.

What’s more, she claims, pain is the business she’s in.
To get out of her mess she’ll follow a thread.

It’s an art, she says to the doctor she sees.
How women sew codes into dresses with thread—

their SOS written in stitches and knots.
At home, distressed, she measures and cuts her thread.

Cross-stitch, back-stitch, split-stitch, darn. For crewel work
she selects a large-eyed needle. Tests the thread.

With a good worsted, she’d repair the damage
done by others. Her own. Forgiveness is the thread

she wants to weave throughout, though mostly it hides
in a seam, while anger surfaces, a long thread.

Fear glimmers, silver-gilt. She thinks it’s her key.
In truth, she confesses, she confuses fil

with fille, the girl she was in France. A spider
and her web. When stressed, she holds fast to her threads.

At ninety, she’ll make a book from remnants of linens,
pages of scarves and pale dresses bound with thread.

She calls it Ode to Forgetting, and, poet-like,
writes “return of the repressed” in her reddest thread.



Allison Funk is author of Forms of Conversion (Alice James Books) Living at the Epicenter, which won the 1995 Samuel French Morse Prize as well as the Society of Midland Authors Poetry Prize. Other books include The Knot Garden (Sheep Meadow Press, 2002); The Tumbling Box (C&R Press, 2009); and Wonder Rooms, issued by Free Verse Editions (Parlor Press, 2015). Her most recent book is The Visible Woman (Parlor Press) forthcoming in early 2021. Funk's honors include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the George Kent Prize from Poetry magazine, and the Celia B. Wagner Award from the Poetry Society of America. She has been granted residencies at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Ragdale Foundation, the Hawthornden Castle International Writers Retreat in Scotland, and the Dora Maar House in France. Her work has been anthologized widely, including in The Best American Poetry and When She Named Fire: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by American Women. Funk is a Distinguished Professor of English at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.