Arts & Culture · Poetry

Poetry Sunday: ‘Cross Stitch,’ by Angela Narciso Torres


Cross Stitch

At her son’s ball game
under the shade of a straw hat
she works on the patch of irises
that she began seven years ago
to fill the long days before his birth.
Afternoons, she crossed squares on cloth
as on a calendar, stopping when
the pains shook her moist hands.

Lifting now the cream-white fabric
for the first time since he was born
she begins the needle’s long-awaited return
along the edge of an unfurled leaf.
She remembers: the light of October,
how it lengthened on the starched square
that rested on her taut belly. A half pear
on the windowsill. The near-ripeness of waiting.

She fingers the strands of color—
gold leaf, sage, wine, cerise. Her eyes
trace patterns over empty rows
imposing on them the unfolding
of years. As though the stitches
might hold the shape of her firstborn
who reaches now, squinting in the outfield,
arms outstretched to the endless blue.


First published in the North American Review and then in Blood Orange and reprinted here with the permission of Aquarius Press.



Angela Narciso Torres’s first book, Blood Orange, won the Willow Books Literature Award for Poetry and can be ordered at Aquarius Press. Her work appears in Spoon River Poetry Review, Kyoto Review, Colorado Review, Cimarron Review, and Drunken Boat. A graduate of the Warren Wilson MFA Program and Harvard Graduate School of Education, Angela has received fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Illinois Arts Council, and Ragdale Foundation. New City magazine named her one of Chicago’s Lit 50 in 2016. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Manila, she is a senior poetry editor for RHINO, a publicity coordinator for Woman Made Gallery Literary Events, and a reader for New England Review. For more information, visit


Poet’s Note

I wrote this poem while pregnant with my youngest son. At the time, his two older brothers, both under the age of 5, were part of a T-ball league. As with many young mothers, my life revolved around the children’s various activities: driving them to and from school, T-ball practice, games, playdates, doctor appointments, etc. I’d just started writing poetry a few years prior, as an attempt to create an internal “room of one’s own,” a room I could carry around with me and retreat into whenever I wanted to escape the mundane life of chores and parenting. Like the small cross-stitch flower patches I had purchased in a museum store to work on at leisure, a poem was portable—I could work on either while watching my sons practice, or waiting for them to come out of school. Writing poetry was both akin to and diametrically opposed to the slow and precise work of sewing x’s onto a piece of cloth to make a whole picture. The one activity was almost mindless and formulaic—the pattern provided, and the other more cerebral, and requiring one to push against the bounds of any prescribed designs or structures. Yet both required the kind of absorbedness that served as a portal to this “room of one’s own”—a place that allowed one the freedom to think long thoughts and create worlds within a sanctuary without walls that no one could enter but me.


Next Page: Rebecca Foust, Poetry Editor, shares her commentary on “Cross Stitch.”

Start the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.