For twenty-five dollars
my mother can dress your feet
in jewel tones. You send her a check,
she’ll send you jewel tones.

My mother can dress your feet,
she does it by hand, with fingers curled as a reflex.
She’ll send you jewel tones.
Around needles, without thought

she does it by hand, with fingers curled as a reflex.
Intricate toes and heels form tubular
around needles, without thought
my mother knits.

Intricate toes and heels form tubular.
One hand over the other,
my mother knits.
She doesn’t need to think anymore.

One hand over the other,
knit one, purl two,
she doesn’t need to think anymore,
lost in knitter’s repetition.

Knit one, purl two,
while the television blares she
is lost in knitter’s repetition,
her private concerto.

While the television blares she
hears jewel tones,
her private concerto.
Her lips move in the counting.

She hears jewel tones,
with large glasses sliding down her nose,
her lips move in the counting
as a sign of her concentration.

With large glasses sliding down her nose,
inaudibly whispering to herself
as a sign of her concentration,
she holds back her world.

Inaudibly whispering to herself
for if she let her excitement out
(she holds back her world)
she might disturb our TV show.

If she let her excitement out
in unraveling emotions in the family room
she might disturb our TV show,
or we might disturb her.

In unraveling emotions in the family room
sometimes instead of the sitcom, I watch her
but not to disturb her,
her inner world that none of us enter.

Sometimes instead of the sitcom, I watch her
knitting, her way to escape
into her inner world that none of us enter
where beautiful things are born.

Knitting, her way to escape,
making socks instead of time
where beautiful things are born
in a now empty nest.

Making socks instead of time,
the lines of worlds fade, and all that’s left
in a now empty nest
are the lines of corrugated yarn in a spiral design.

The lines of worlds fade, and all that’s left
is wrapped around needles, lips, and hearts.
The lines of corrugated yarn in a spiral design
coming together in knots,

wrapped around needles, lips, and hearts.
A pair of hand-knit socks
coming together in knots.
And she’ll send them to you,

a pair of hand-knit socks
in jewel tones. You send her a check
and she’ll send them to you
for twenty-five dollars.


One of the many difficulties of writing in strict form is the pitfall of allowing the form of the poem to take over the content or the intention of the poet. In “Jewel Tones” we see the opposite: A poet utilizing the form to carry the very human desire of the person writing it.
—Matthew Dickman, 2010 Ruth Stone Poetry Prize Judge