Carol V. Davis: "Singer and His Sewing Machine"


Isaac Merritt Singer’s story is a better read

than any owner’s manual:

Married at 19 in New York,

he grew restless with a wife and baby,

joined a theater as a booking agent,

then climbed onto the stage as a hero, a cad.

Maybe it was the plays that did it,

an audience to worship him.


In Baltimore he proposed marriage again.

Soon he had two wives and two children.

Singer created the straight line,

but never learned its lesson.

Though he looped in circles,

he willed the shuttle to thrust up and down.


Overhanging arm, straight eye needle,

a presser foot to secure the cloth:

he bequeathed precision to women everywhere.

Something to rely on, while his own embroidery unraveled.

Singer added a third wife, this time in Paris,

six more children followed.


Now there are machines for every need:

one-step buttonholes, see-through bobbins,

an automatic needle threader.

Model 7463 is called Confidence.

Model 7436, Ingenuity.

I’ll take one of each.



Carol V. Davis won the 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize for Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg (Truman State University Press, 2007). Twice a Fulbright scholar in Russia, (1996-7, 2005), she was the 2008 poet-in-residence at Olivet College, MI and teaches at Santa Monica College, CA. Her poetry has been read on NPR radio and on Radio Russia and has appeared in such journals as Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Nimrod, Natural Bridge, Crab Orchard Review, Mid-American Review, etc. She read at the Library of Congress in Nov. 2010. Her new book, Between Storms, will be published by TSUP in 2012.