And those words were a pair of long, burnished steel scissors that came out of her mouth, jawlike blades that closed over the wrists, leaving stumps sewed up with a needle and thread from her spools.
–Elena Ferrante, from The Days of Abandonment
Poets think in lines, prose writers in sentences; the best of both work from sound to sense, with an ear for the music in their compositions. S for Sentence celebrates lyricism in prose, the play and craft at work in the artful sentence. We post a sentence a month along with comments by a guest writer on the craft that shapes it, on what makes it great. In one or two sentences.
—Pearl Abraham, Editor
A child’s imagination turns words into weapons in this extraordinary sentence. The narrator remembers watching her seamstress Mom at work. When she touches the sewing things, her mother warns her: “Stop, or I’ll cut off your hands.” Terrified, the child sees the words take the shape of razor-sharp blades scissoring her wrists, while the needle and threads sew up the stumps. The “jaw-like blades” and the “closed” remind the reader that words, even or especially when they emerge from a mother’s mouth, can bite. Blending the literal and the figurative – the way children do – the metaphor turns ordinary domestic sewing things into weapons of destruction, and echoes in reverse the more hopeful biblical verse that “we will beat our swords to ploughshares, our spears to pruning forks.”
–Catherine Texier is the author of Breakup and Victorine