The Pattern: SOLACE Reading Group

by Rachel Webster
Each week we use poetry to wonder afresh at the world that we live in; sometimes that world is full of hope and at other times its hostile and restless. But all the time we are seeking to make sense of experience, and to reconcile our past with the present. Some poems, in their unassuming form, take you by surprise, like Michael Longley’s ‘The Pattern’. It depicts a simple, nostalgic memory of the poet’s wedding day. A dress pattern becomes the catalyst for remembering; an insignificant object that causes a depth of emotion to spill out. As readers we are caught up in this bittersweet moment, learning how to articulate a past in an ever-changing present.

The Pattern

Thirty-six years, to the day, after our wedding
When a cold figure-revealing wind blew against you
And lifted your veil, I find in its fat envelope
The six-shilling Vogue pattern for your bride’s dress,
Complicated instructions for stitching bodice
And skirt, box pleats and hems, tissue-paper outlines,
Semblance of skin which I nervously unfold
And hold up in snow light, for snow has been falling
On this windless day, and I glimpse your wedding dress
And white shoes outside in the transformed garden
Where the clothesline and every twig have been covered.

Taken from Being Alive, ed. Neil Astley (Tarset: Bloodaxe Books, 2004), p. 243

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