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Honiton Lace

a Bref Double, for Elihu Burritt, 1864

You detoured just to see this one-street town
famous for making lace – the handiwork
of women hungerful and gaunt. This day,
you find them on clay floors, their fingers worn

not quite to bone with lace-work filigree
and flounces. In damp cottages they bend
to their needles, their art. A wedding gown
for a princess. And its maker? Old, shorn

of girlhood, womanhood. She just makes lace,
wrought with lions and unicorns. A queen
might wear her veil with pride. It’s cheap to pay
for precious cloth a penny. Who will mourn

this poverty? A thought to take away,
how common peasant craft can wreath a crown.


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