As I sew a button 
to my old winter coat 
stitch, stretch, stitch, stretch 
I think of my grandmother’s 
mortified delight 
should she have seen 
one such as me 
mending a hem: 
stitch, stretch, stitch, stretch 
To pull the thread taut 
well over your head: 
it’s a trollop’s skill 
a slattern’s tack 
stitch, stretch, stitch, stretch 
try: it feels lovely, loose, 
lithe, unleashed; 
see the air’s slow pressure 
cup and weigh the breast 
confess the skin’s intimate self-kiss 
stitch, stretch, stitch, stretch 
like a kid so full of the answer 
you’re fit to bust with it 
a Russian claiming space-rock, 
or a mountain summit 
a medallist swimming freestyle 
winning a fast heat 
a blue stocking hailing a cab 
you’ll pay for 
with your own hard won cash . . . 
reaching for a larger self 
as you fling your hand higher, 
you’re a statuesque Liberty 
with tiny silver javelin, 
a miniature, dreaming spire. 


Emma Neale’s latest novel, Relative Strangers, was published by Random House in 2006. This year she appeared at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, and had a short residency at Varuna, Katoomba, as part of the New Zealand Book Council/International Writers’ exchange programme.