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