Darren Millard Writing on Wool – IFWC


Wool in our Tin Cans and String

It was shortly after his first warm confession

that Frank’s sleeve sniffled with ketchup

from an awkward spill.

His mohair’s left cuff got stained like a heart

snared in a weave, and post-

wash the wool began to flag beneath its vapours

on a Trojan horse;

I didn’t think Frank’s complexion

would ever mimic its sclera-paleness,

or that his breath would follow the barely

perceptible sound of its hand-stroked burr.

Or even that his jowls would jostle with stress;

a lovely, undulating, pleasantly

fraught sensation plotting outwards

to share territory with the visible wimple of oil on his skin.

His wrinkles were swabbed with a subtle veneer

like freshly melted ice, or the memory of saliva

that his mother would scrub into his cheek so precisely

when he was a child.

He told me once about the woolly scarves

his mam made him, and the smells

that they had accumulated over the years;

the violent scent of lavender hanging from a nose hair.

During terrible days at school Frank would bury

his face in his jumper and breathe in deeply.

If he closed his eyes it was like home from home.

His mam would often nick her fingers and wince;

the bob and curl of her knitting needles

clacking together like hard, determined cricket legs.

Frank’s mam told him not to worry,

and that his familiar sadness was merely adolescent.

You don’t mourn for every predictable life-chorus.

For a long time he kept the clothes

she’d made, and assembled

a cornucopia of fondness in his closet.

The sheep’s wool she didn’t shear but artfully arranged

with craft supplies she’d hawked half-

price from the shop where everything was practically free.

Frank would often ruin her creations,

snub them with environmental bruises; biological urges.

Those times when he would wait until early morning

to sneak his clothes into the washing machine,

reminded of the imagined faces of friends and enemies

that he so desperately wanted to come unstuck.

Later, Frank returned to the hormonal whir

and whine that followed half-term.

The muddied blood from his first school-yard brawl

shot through his eyes

like his sockets were a shook whiskey tumbler;

and as he wrapped the umpteenth-

sewn woollen scarf over his dizzied frame,

his neck twisted like a clung merry-go-round.

That very evening his mother’s affection transformed

into a furious proclamation for obedience,

and Frank brought a fist

like a bop-it hammer to his scrawny chest.

It was hard for his parents not to find humour

in the assured drama of his teenaged performance.

At the same time his woollen jumper’s

loose ends rooted themselves into his skin;

the collar resembled a healed wound held together with stitches.

He showed me a picture of himself wearing that jumper.

I’d never seen such frozen catharsis

in frayed ends and a smile,

and his body looked as slight and malleable as a laundry-line wire.

I also saw the weakness in his shoulders,

and recognised the awkwardness in his posture.

The bratty, murderous secrets pinned between his milky ribs.

That was just Frank in a photograph;

he’s had time to grow since then,

even if other parts of him seem to fly away.

Frank only noticed that his memory

wasn’t as strong as it once was when he started to forget

the stories he’d told me about his mother.

We usually skirted over the issue of health and family

for lighter causes; the voting results from reality TV,

and the regional news

that always seemed dumb with small-town peril.

I didn’t like holding his memories for him;

a conduit for those moments

that do not belong to me.

But I still possess a fondness for my own recollections.

Winter ’96, when I reasoned that the sky

wobbled on teetering poles that vaulted from our eyes.

The white sun was a refrigerator motor

that had gone berserk,

making Frank’s five o’clock shadow electric with frost.

The skin under his blue woolly mohair

(still tainted by the faintest taste of red) was so thin

I thought I could see the pulse buck under its wrist;

pretending that its cause was Jurassic and not due to shared anxieties.

There were so many people steering past on Queen’s Street that day,

beheaded by the squall of scum-dimmed lights.

In ’97 my sister was born.

The world became opaque and less easy to conquer.

Millennium and tender age made Frank desperate to be relevant,

and many of his clothes became outgrown.

They would always remain woollen,

but kept in stasis like a mammoth preserved in ice.

I think of them as fabrics unburdened from the forest of our own nostalgia.

I still see them there dropsied in an attic swale

beneath the single-glazed skylight that never got doubled.

Frank may not wear them anymore but the material still unravels.


This text on Wool was written and submitted by Darren Millard for Round 2 of Modeconnect’s International Fashion Writing Competition. Check Darren’s entry for Round 1: Designer profile: Alan Taylor

Read all the International Fashion Writing Competition published submissions.