With a single strand of black silk floss, I spend the better part of an afternoon embroidering the word “l o v e” in minute cross stitches – 35 to the inch – over one thread of fine-woven, ivory linen. (The word is part of an exquisite 18th century English reproduction sampler I’ve been working on for several years.) As I work each microscopic stitch, taking care to keep my thread’s tension light and even, neither too taut nor too slack, I unchain my thoughts and let them wander. I think long on love. I wonder why this four-letter, one-syllable word can be so delicate and diaphanous, so difficult to execute on fabric, to effectuate in life. Love is what we wish to give, what we hunger to receive. It’s what we dedicate our lives to, this sacred, abstruse word we’ve sought to define from the dawn of collective consciousness. “Love, our subject:/we’ve trained it like ivy to our walls,” says the poet, Adrienne Rich. At last, I complete the word, secure my needle, and close my eyes, fabric in hand.
“L o v e.”
I am able to extend a finger, run it lightly over the tiny topography of letters, and read the word whole, like Braille. Somewhere in my heart, a poem yearns to find release. Where are the words to give it wing? I can only ask the roving wind. What I do know, what I can simply say, is that love – prismatic, manifold, undefinable, so worthy of all we can possibly give to it – is not easily captured in black and white.