Thursday, February 15, 2024

Poetry Friday: "Invisible Work" by Kwoya Fagin Maples


I subscribe to "Poem-a-Day" at, but I must admit my attention ebbs and flows. Sometimes I faithfully, and happily read the poem each day. In other seasons, poetry piles up in my Inbox and I later mass-delete in a frenzy of Inbox cleaning.  

But recently I was walloped by marvelous finds two days in a row — Eve L. Ewing's "eschatology" (which I shared last week) and Kwoya Fagin Maples' "Invisible Work." 

Obviously, that was enough to launch me back into my daily habit. Enjoy this beauty! 

Invisible Work

by Kwoya Fagin Maples

or teachers,      guides whose gestures      I recall better than names

            so much I’ve been taught I have yet to know

but ode            to every stitch of braid past my mother’s fingertips 

sewing countless

                                     buttons for every day my grandmother

cooked and cleaned house twice

& Sis. Eugenia Foster 

who kept my brother and I in summer who taught me 

              steeping and drinking tea  & how      I could call for someone 

but not cry       when they passed over

the wind chimes too        all their constant worry with wind

even after her stroke        my grandmother Dorothy rose on cold 



(Read the rest here, at 


Margaret, at Reflections on the Teche, has the Poetry Friday round-up this week. 


Linda Mitchell said...

This poem is very pokey. It has pauses that feel like they are poking me somewhere inside. It's not uncomfortable but also not comfortable. I love it when I have to work for what name to give something. Maples poem, 'Ivisible Work' will have me mulling for a while. This is good.

Sally Murphy said...

Karen, thank you for sharing this. Lots to mull on. I loved reading Maples' notes about where the poem came from, too.

Tracey Kiff-Judson said...

There is so much to this poem, Karen! Interesting that Linda called this poem pokey. I had a similar sensation. The word that came to me was breezy – like thoughts blowing in and out. These lines also stayed with me: even after her stroke / my grandmother Dorothy rose on cold nights / pulled a heavy leg down the hall /to cover me with a quilt …

Margaret Simon said...

Like you, I sometimes just have to delete, delete to clean out my inbox, so this poem passed me by. Thanks for sharing it here. I wrote down, "I see now/ all this gracious lack of accounting" in my notebook, collecting inspiration, words, ideas.

Patricia Franz said...

Wow, I love the cascade of memory-begetting-memory of all the invisible hands that shaped the writer. Everytime I thread a sewing machine, I think of my Nana who taught me to sew.

Linda B said...

I loved the "Eschatology" last week, Karen, printed it out to keep, and now this, memories springing out, her Ode to "care" in her family. I didn't see this one, somehow missed it. Thanks for bringing it to us!

elli said...

What a lovely poem, Karen. Thank you. … an interesting notion, subscribing on email to a poem a day … *ponders* … I subscribe to daily sociopolitical news essays, and spiritual reflections. Love those, and they ‘work’ for me on email (like reading a blog). Ah, but poetry. I like my paper, hold in hand, scribble in the margins books! πŸ˜ŠπŸ€²πŸ½πŸ“–


Rose Cappelli said...

Thanks for sharing this, Karen. The line breaks are so interesting. I have to admit I haven't quite figured it out yet, but it has me pondering.

Buffy Silverman said...

The line breaks make me think of something about to be stitched. Interesting poem.

Bridget Magee said...

The use of white space made the feels in this poem all the more powerful. Thanks for sharing, Karen.

Mary Lee said...

That litany of gestures -- so powerful!

Karen Eastlund said...

The second time this week I've ruminated about treasuring my mother. Powerful and poignant. Thank you!

Carol Varsalona said...

Karen, your choice of poems always refreshes my thoughts. I read this poem twice and was intrigued that the author aided her thoughts. The rambling format is so interesting because it gets inside the writer.

Karen Edmisten said...

I'm glad so many of you enjoyed this one, too. I should have posted the "About this Poem" (from Maples, at because it spoke so directly to me about instinctive tending of my children:

“I’d woken to thunder and squeals of the wind, and having lived during Hurricane Hugo as a child, I panicked and ran upstairs to check on my children, who slept peacefully. Afterwards, I couldn’t sleep, so I sat up in the living room. I felt a bit foolish, but also grateful for my instincts. As the adrenaline settled I thought of those who’d tended me in the night, how so often their invisible actions went unnoticed, and this is the poem that came.” — Kwoya Maples