Julie Hanson

The Clacklet
December 16, 2019 Hanson Julie

The Clacklet
Buttons taken from a sewing box
now mine, a little time to choose the best,
a doubled length of twine
to thread them with and tie up end to end . . .
but no, that doesn’t capture it.
A bracelet of no worth,
settled on a surface in a slump.
That’s all it was, all it might have seemed,
initially, to be
between those episodes ahead
and when it was the nameless thing I’d made
imagining the need—
a plaything in the hand, a teething ring,
a rosary for one too young to want
or understand a prayer.
It was a made-up thing
made up from things on hand,
and yet—Dependable Charm!—
it consisted of nothing but its task—
a guardian on guard,
and dutiful to every call,
until, left behind on the seat of a jet,
it flew from us forever.
Lost in the prime of its usefulness.
Forget something like that once
and it’s not gone,
but churns around inside the void,
resurfacing and glimpsed again,
a referent for future fights,
little red sock
in a load of whites,
its status risen suddenly
to Item Made As It Could Be
Only By Myself,
lucky owner of a box
belonging once to someone else
whose buttons were all oversized,
some still shiny bright
and fastened to their cards,
who parked her needles side by side
each picking up one stitch’s worth—
one tiny bite—of a soft, pink,
oval scrap of cloth,
whose measuring tape stayed wound
and wound inside itself so long
there was no true undoing it to flat,
whose sectioned trays
had organized like sectioned drawers
for years and years
a century’s mostly ordinary buttons
which I had sorted through and culled
to make this simple, necessary thing,
an accessory itself,
now clumped among our losses.
If we still had it, though—
by now it would be
tucked into a box of infant things
and shoved way back behind
oh, rows of boxes moved in since.
The day would come —
we all know this—
when I would open it and with
the shriek of lost acquaintances
bring you running up the steps
so much lighter than I thought you could
and bring as well
our now-grown son, come home again
and curious about the contents of
a long-unregarded box.
And then would come the telling:
how quickly it had risen
up the list of what to pack,
how it had traveled everywhere with us
so there’d be no wailing, no regret,
and how it came to be
“The Clacklet” as he had learned to talk
—if, that is, we’d kept it
long enough for him to name it that.
How can I forgive the loss,
remembering now my anger over it.
There were other objects, yes—
but in only this
we get the bonus of a thing
forgotten famously by one of us.
Inscrutable detail, so well-preserved,
it hasn’t sunk or softened,
shrunk, dissolved, or lost
significance for me.
Despite the dark bureaucracies
of memory, it is easily
retrieved. But you—
who from the looks of it
will remain my companion
to the last—you are the best
at forgetting what never came to pass.
It did work well, and at no cost,
but as a much-relied-on thing
its destiny was oblivion.
Had it not been left on the seat of the jet,
then in the upset of a different departure
it would have slipped
through a slot in the bench at the park
or stayed in a dip in the sand at the beach
and who knows how quickly
after that—a year, or maybe
only months would pass—before
he’d lost his name for it, The Clacklet,
if he had named it that.

Julie Hanson is the author of Unbeknownst (University of Iowa Press, 2011), Iowa Poetry Prize winner and 2012 Kate Tufts Discovery Award finalist, and The Audible and the Evident (Ohio University Press, February 2020), Hollis Summers Poetry Prize winner. Her work has earned fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Vermont Studio Center, and recent or forthcoming publication in Smartish Pace, New Ohio Review, Under a Warm Green Linden, failbetter.com and Bat City Review.