Big Brothers left a message on my phone:

“We will come by tomorrow to pick up

clean, reusable cast-offs for our Thrift Store”

Sometimes I visit there, to burrow through

the sartorial trickle-down, wandering a maze

of trenches to finger old uniforms, war surplus,

along with magazines, the rubble of spent lives,

abandoned finery. What am I looking for?


“Nice threads!”. The imperial fashion houses

—Habsburg, Bourbon, Castille—

knew all about power dressing, but also depended on

remainders, planned obsolescence.

What yarns we weave around empire!

As the silver and gold of discarded opulence frayed,

all that survived of their costume drama were cockades

and threadbare tapestries whose heroic names unspool

into oblivion. In uprooted family trees,

their crowns destroyed, maggots unstitch the flesh

of disused majesty, a fabricated past.


Forensic pathologists do not find it easy

to salvage threadbare life from simple fabrics,

to interrogate cloth from crumpled jackets left

at the scene of atrocities. How can they pick clean

after all the damage done by rodents, mildew, time,

the unfederated bones? how test stains of semen and


or set aside from their minds the cries of neighbours,

as they reassemble cleansed fibres to restore

identity to the clamouring anonymous dead?

Yet those that survive still need,

more even than bodies, names.


First editor of Arc, Christopher Levenson’s most recent book of poetry is Moorings (Caitlin Press, 2023).

Questions and Answers

Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?

Although when I was in high school in England I wrote the usual sentimental, cliched, verses to girl friends, I persisted in writing what I hoped was poetry thanks mainly to the support of an English teacher and a mentor who was himself a published poet. I cannot recall any specific Eureka moment, but I think by the age of eighteen I knew that poetry was going to be a major part of my life.

What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?

As for inspiration, I’m skeptical of the word and its mainly Romantic connotations. Sometimes, looking at an art exhibition or watching a newscast a few words or phrases come to me unbidden and I jot them down—my definition of a writer is someone who always has at least one piece of paper and two pens or pencils to hand at all times—and then just wait to see if other words and phrases, other images collect around them, in which case I might have the beginnings of a poem. Ideas for poems can come from anywhere: the important thing is to be aware, to recognize the potential of the unusual moment or atmosphere or incident.

So yes, books, films, art, music: just be as open as possible, but especially to the basic medium, language, in all its overtones, quirks, double meanings and nuances.

With “Threads,” as with a number of my other recent poems, the initial short poem suggested other meanings of the title, so that I had a sequence of three which then over time coalesced into the present poem. To illustrate the editing would take pages. Suffice to say, for me a poem has to sound good, when read aloud, so that one of my main concerns is always to ensure a cadence, a flow.

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