Threads, a community poem


A small, neat ball of soft pure wool,

or remains of clothing.

The shepherd nurtured and sheared the sheep.

The flock mooch and munch contentedly

in the Exe Valley orchards,

far away from their ancestral home in Shropshire.



Rich in colour, soft and snug,

a gift from Chinese neighbours newly come, reflects an unexpected love.



Red, it’s my colour,

the cuffs rippling in the wind,

Hung lazily off an arm.



You don’t know where I’m from,

you don’t see the labour,

you see Skye, deep time,

distant, convenient distractions.



Hand-made and sold by women in rural India.

The green scarf – practical, beautiful, but humble.

Protects me, as it did then.

It offers priceless shelter from a sometimes harsh world.



A square of muslin, one of many, is textured and dense.

When used, it expands to become fine and smooth.

Later, my son will ask me to tie it around his small shoulders.

A Superhero cloak.

He wears it throughout the first year of school, which coincides with the end of his parents’ relationship.

His eyes, my eyes – back and forth.



Red, stripy headscarf protects age ten.

Red tartan wraps my belly seven years on, the place that warms three boys, then cushions mum, clutching her handkerchief as she gasps.



Her remembered home I took with me,

The double-sided shawl of crimson-irony

Like my friend who gave it me, she sang:

‘dance with the colour, swim with the sea’, trust the space between my yarn, endlessly.



Davina Quinlivan was the ‘Writer in Residence’ for Quay Words (Literature Works). The residency reflected the theme ‘Threads’ through a prism of varied activities and workshops including work on migration, wool and the environment. Read more here.

Threads is a ‘living’ poem produced by members of the local community in Exeter City, created as part of a workshop.

Davina Quinlivan’s multi-generational memoir of migration, Shalimar, is out now.

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