Ben Maier

A Short History of Textiles

Chapter 1 of A Short History of Textiles
is devoted to the qualities of large-scale commissions in cotton.
A cursory glance
is given to hospital sheets
which once began life as great swathes,
not King- but Continent-sized,
over which sharpened iron grids were laid
to cut away the standard shape:
large enough for the average man
to turn over twice.
Chapter 2 tells how silk warps, given water or salt,
and so would never do for sails.
And Chapter 3: how the public learned
to make do without the linen maps
which were once so common,
the fabric of hinterland and frontier
outlined in black with oak gall ink.
Chapter 4 relates the biography
of Joseph Marie Jacquard,
who watched as his son
was shot down at his side
and who later developed
the Jacquard loom
which occasioned the necessary loss
of so many jobs.
Chapter 5 concerns itself only
with the lucency of sun through lace.
Chapter 6 is devoted to the presence
of appliqué in the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald
and his part in its meteoric rise in sales.
Finally, Chapter 7: the parable of the boy
assigned the banner-making for the parade,
who having neglected to read
A Short History of Textiles,
inverted the colours of the flag
and was justly chastised
by all of his fathers.

Ben Maier
“A Short History of Textiles” appears in The Salt Book of Younger Poets, ed. Roddy Lumsden and Eloise Stonborough (forthcoming in October 2011 from Salt Publishing).