Spring is a time of renewal. For Christians, this means Easter. When I was child, Easter meant new clothes — my Easter outfit. A new dress, of course. But also a matching hat, pocketbook and gloves.

I sometimes wore gloves in the winter, though more often mittens. Gloves at Eastertime were different. They were thin cotton and light colored, white or tan. Not very useful as day-to-day wear, they harked back to an earlier time when women pretended to delicacy and wore gloves when out visiting.

So much of what we wear now is made overseas. Once they made shirts at the Hathaway factory in Waterville, but after 168 years of making shirts in Maine, they closed in 2002. Thinking about shirt-making calls to mind the marvelous poem, “Shirt,” by Robert Pinsky. He details the making of a shirt in an unforgettable way. Definitely worth a read.

Pinsky also references the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York on March 25, 1911. Mostly teenaged immigrant women were killed, 146 workers in all. We don’t knowingly allow those working conditions in this country anymore. But someone is stitching those shirts and gloves.

Jeri Theriault grew up in Waterville and had similar thoughts when she bought her gloves. “Those imagined girls connected to my own mill-working aunts who sewed shirt collars and cuffs at the Hathaway in the 1940s,” she said.

Jeri taught at the International School of Prague from 2002-2006 and her musings about girls working in factories made her remember a Chinese student named Zhen who was very earnest and knew the value of education. Each Upper School student was required to give a speech every year and Jeri used some of Zhen’s own words in ending her poem.

Jeri is a Franco-American poet who graduated from Colby College and later earned degrees from USM and Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her publications include “In the Museum of Surrender” and “Radost, my red.” She also edited “Wait: Poems from the Pandemic,” published by Littoral Books in 2021. The poem, “Gloves,” won first place in the Perigree Poetry Competition in 2007. You can read more about Jeri at her website: jeritheriault.com.

Gloves

for Z.J. International School of Prague, 2006

 

Too fine for work, too thin

for winter, the color of cinnamon

potpourri, rose petals,

 

these gloves I’ve bought—simple self

indulgence. The tag inside reads: crafted

in China. And I imagine girls—their dark

 

heads bent, stitching thumbs—like m’s

when laid out flat—and a flock

of between-finger v’s. Penmanship

 

in supple cowhide. Flat shapes, finger

to finger, cashmere shadows nested

in leather palms, they memorize

 

hands, sew in their sleep the scent

of raw leather, of dye, of fine

wool fluff. And I think of Zhihuong,

 

the Chinese girl in English 10, wearing

pink corduroys, pink sweater—awkward,

dyslexic, her voice bowing. She bends

 

over crooked letters, her nails startlingly

red. She writes: in my country

75 pupils in class. Teacher may not

 

like you. You sit side-by side, almost

on top of. You try to learn

as much as you can.

Judy Kaber is Belfast’s poet laureate.

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