Carol Ann Duffy

Oval Map Sampler

Sampler, needles, threads,
though the world’s inside my head,
stitch a man instead.

Men go far and wide
in 1785,
not daughters, not wives.

Hussif. So I hum
dream, exemplum, thimble-numb;
all fingers and thumbs.

I pick out NORTHERN
in letters, tack the Ocean.
It is handwoven.

Scotland is foreign.
My maid has its peaty tongue
in her cheek - brae, burn, -

its different myths;
greets for the land of her birth;
thi fush frae Arbroath.

I move from this place:
eye of a needle, through, pass,
camel... first to France,

where love is l’amour
and I love you je t’adore.
Thus, I could love more.

Europe. E-U-R-
O-P-E. It is not far.
Mich. Embroiderer.

Toe of Italy
kicking little Sicily…
I’d sip Chianti…

Snip. A litany -
Hungary, Turkey, Black Sea,
Little Tartary.

I will teach my girl
to learn this map of the world -
my darling, my pearl -

Russia and Poland,
Spain, sewn by her mother’s hand
within a garland.

This female grammar,
passed down, subtle as rumour,
soft as a murmur.

There is wise ASIA,
ladies, and wild AFRICA
beyond Britannia. 

Sew. I leave my mark,
like the maid or the monarch.
Call it woman’s work.