Tag Archives: The Ravensbrück Seamstress

Napoleon’s Travelling Bookshelf

Napoleon's Travelling Bookshelf

Sarah Hesketh was born in 1983 and grew up in Pendle, East Lancashire. She attended Merton College, Oxford and holds an MA in Creative Writing from UEA. In 2007 her collaboration with composer Alastair Caplin was performed at the Leeds Lieder Festival. She currently works as Assistant Director at the writers’ charity English PEN. Visit Sarah’s website.

Sarah Hesketh by Benjamin Thompson

Sarah Hesketh by Benjamin Thompson

Sarah Hesketh
               A month
                              of leaping trout.
The villagers dusted earth from their boots,
muttered of meanings caught lurking in the corn.
It befits such tales to begin with a stranger.
And so she seemed: the pots unwashed,
the blackberries gone to rot inside the door.
Nights were worse.
I am thrice blessed by moonlight, he declared,
and she kissed his scars in brazen view
of that common nunnery gossip.
Later, when the cows wouldn’t calve,
and her neighbour held a barrel
to the head of his hound, she would testify, only
to this: that his night-rushed skin
turned to smoke come the morning.
And the rising light across sky-rocked fields,
came like a command from home.
The Ravensbrück Seamstress
Sarah Hesketh
She bites buttons from the coats of dead men.
Fillets the seams of grain sacks for thread.
Spits when repairing the outline of stars.
Mud is murder on the hems. They come to her
for pockets that might save a photograph, a ring.
Cuffs are fashionably frayed that year. Waists cinched in.
When Reuben dies by the train track, in the rain,
twelve girls are wearing his socks by lunch.
Each thick red stitch she forces through their collars
irritates the skin, reminds them to struggle.
They break ice for mirrors for a treat when it’s cold,
worn faces, suddenly respectable to themselves.
Published in Napoleon’s Travelling Bookshelf
(Penned in the Margins, 2009).
Read more about Napoleon’s Travelling Bookshelf.