The Social Optimism of Lace, By Ingrid Jensen

The Social Optimism of Lace

By Ingrid Jensen

Some of it emerges from the storage box, stiff

yellowed with the years

immobile with starch

(vintage potato, the lace expert, Dr. Evva, pronounces, and I confirm by sneezing.)

and so to the ash can it goes: something unspeakably precious:

effort, time, skill.

There are more, endlessly more

Layers of lacework from beneath old pillowcases, protective strips of old slips

garter belts and corset bindings

constrictive and constructive

and sheets and ribbons and kerchiefs and runners and scarves and bands and ruffles and cuffs, all of lace.

I wonder whose time was knotted into the strands, whose relaxation was spent with fingers twitching, mind narrowed into sharp focus, concentration poured into the lengthening web

as their feet rested perhaps for the first and only time that day.

It is unspeakably precious:

effort, time, skill.

The length of lace beneath my fingers

unwinds like a continuum of hours in summer

a fragile thread shot with color

reflections of hours spent in focus

bright iris stilled on nimble fingers

the winding of the threads, round the needle, over the pillow is


meticulous movements

a drum beat for the heart

a track, an etching in stone, like driving.

I hate driving, and I love lace,

but it reminds me

of a story

I will tell.

In a hotel garage, underground

a fortified bunker of fossilized clay,

a stable of cars, an existence of growth spent with the living dead

in a place of nourishment for the automaton, gasoline pumps aligned.

a man is driving round and round

skimming walls, scraping paint

causing the tires to speak to screech with indignity and outrage

and the smell of burning rubber.


is the root of it,

I guess. Boredom to the point of desperation

and the boredom seems chemically induced

by the pungent scent of gasoline coating a wave of damp and woolly underground air

The platinum-haired in the backseat grabs his collar, says:

Better do this on the streets, says,

Keep your foot on the brake

Don’t be so personally pessimistic.

he says

Look at me—

I’m socially optimistic.

and drops off back to sleep in the rumble seat


Since when did rumble seats pop up


No pun intended.

as the car circles


A continuum

Miles spent going round the same dull circle, at 90 miles per hour

Until the gas tank is empty and the framework glides to a still.

Platinum –hair is still asleep

because it may as well be yesterday when you’re in the throes of a nap that long.

It may as well be Spring.

The driver sits, unfocused, bored, and harboring a vague wish to feel socially chameleonic, again. What will happen when the spring winds take a bend inward, upon itself posing rebirth upon a city?

Especially, and take note of this:

a city as large as the one they are in?

He has not packed any spring shoes.

He gets out of the car, leaves it blocking the garage door,

leaves the man with the angel bleached hair snoring in the back.

He walks up the stairs to the street above, the creaking of his knees measuring the effort.

Above, the air is cleaner,

a minute trace of something like wet violets enmeshed in thatch of wet, green, grass.

He thinks,

Spring is good time to buy a rabbit. Maybe I will get one for---somebody.

So the story goes.

And the lace beneath my fingers winds a spiral to the floor, saying:

Look at me—

I’m socially optimistic.

That’s true, I think

it’s survived longer than most people

seen the relentless, glowing dawn of decades I can only picture

and maybe even a century or two, something even a history book cannot even fathom

All of this because

Lace is socially optimistic

There are no brakes on its length

There are no limits excepting those in finger-strength and

I’ve got strength in my fingers

but no control in my eyes

I could wander through an iris, if allowed, carrying a black glass pupil, balanced like a beach ball on my left hip, all the time wondering

and wishing for platinum hair or real glass glitter or a piece of bright blue brocade

Never focusing on my own splendid reality

my gifted door into a world of wonder, my own eye.

I think this while my fingers pretend to twist

and tie

and weave

and knot

and cut

a spider’s web

a fishing net

a trap for my bad dreams.

Again, reaching for someone else’s past reality.

And in a small way,

I do wish it was I who made that lace

one hundred years ago in the heat of a June day,

forced to sit and study the knots by an elder,

an aunt who believes in embroidery.

And in a large way,

I am glad it was someone else.

I am glad that a summer’s day will find me where it always has,

diligently collecting freckles in the sun.

Virginia ArcherComment