Roger W. Hecht

On our first day at the ribbon factory we did not make any ribbons.
Instead, we were introduced to the theory of ribbons:

their twin histories in ancient Sumaria & the dark majesty
of the early years of the Ch'in Dynasty.

Ribbons have such a rich & complex symbolism, it's a wonder
that people are only willing to ponder

yellow for longing (when tied to a tree), or red's emotional wreck
(when twined around a young girl's neck)

or black bound tight around a man's thigh.
It doesn't stop there.

Attached to the factory is the ribbon museum, unique in its subject
& architectural design. Four gallery hallways twist & convect

in a Chinese braid, ending in a knot at the bookshop/café
that specializes in ribbon candy.

Among the wonders within: the scrap of three-weave,
embroidered with the flowers of an extinct tree

brought by mariners from Hunan to Peru in a clay pot.
& a shawl of 13th century heretic lace, with alternate

versions of the Lord's Prayer stitched in reverse. But best
is what they call the "True Ribbon," a silk strip in powder blue

supposedly stripped from Marie Antoinette's own
pink throat by her guillotineur. O the hours we spent studying ribbon.

A prerequisite to making ribbon
is knowing deeply in your blood the meaning of ribbon.

& each day we visit the ribbon machines, enormous looms
of gleaming blue steel, silently humming

in well-oiled precision, churning out miles of ribbon per week.
Tiny weaves for dress trim, thick

flat panels for drapery. Hair ribbons, finger ribbons,
ribbons for packages of all fashions.

Thursdays we're received into the ribbon rooms, where long stretches
of ribbon cascade down their chutes.

To visit ribbon at this stage, where one could possibly get hurt, we don
lab coats & sterile hair caps, & stand with the bins

& let the ribbon spill upon us. Hot silks nearly
singe our cheeks. This is the only

way to learn the ribbon by heart. But sadly
this is also as close to ribbon making as we may

ever get. The delicate weaving machines are tendered
by robotic arms that can never suffer

ribbon lung, or fibre lesions under the skin.
These are supervised by computers programmed in lands

far away—Bombay, or Jakarta, we suspect—
managing supply & demand in all of its aspects .

We've been told in no uncertain terms there is no work
for us & there never will be. But we come back

every day—how can't we? There is ribbon in our blood & there is
no other home for us now.





When I was in college I was picked up hitchhiking by some Hare Krishnas and spent the night at their temple, New Vrindaban, the Palace of Gold. Though it never occurred to me to join their cult, ever since then I have always questioned my ability to be wholly devoted to anything. I have tried for years to write about this experience, unsuccessfully. This is one of the poems I wrote instead.