THE TAILOR: IN MEMORIAM

By Irene Musillo Mitchell

Written in honor of her father, Michael Angelo Musillo, who was born in 1899 in Motescaglioso(Basilicata), Italy. He emigrated to America in 1920; he lived in the Bronx, and died on August 13, 1956. Below are two stanzas from the poem.

Giovanni Battista Moroni: The Tailor, 1570-1575
(The National Gallery, London)

 

I

I am a tailor from the old world.

My craft is dying. Each tailor who goes is an end — let it be.

The old world is crumbling; there is no place in the new,

For the honored work of an old humanity:

 

For the slow, patient labor of a simpler day;

For the personal, the fine work, detail — feeling becomes form;

And what is a man but his touch, his expressiveness through his metier.

 

The old customer who understood quality, goods, design,

Who was pleased with fastidious workmanship is passing away.

The new, accustomed to facsimile, duplicate, the ready-made,

Dulled by the prevalence of mediocrity is unable to evaluate.

 

He wears my coat but he is wanting in stature; his measure is small:

The new world extolling mechanical power has minimized him.

But my work is rooted in traditions affirming his unlimited potential.

 

My coat is cut to the man, his tone, his stance, his gesture —

The man at his best. Stitches, darts, facing develop a theme.

Seams join, hems turn, the iron defines — a world is configurated:

I shape my life into design, the tailor and the boy who dreamed….

VI

I am a tailor from the old world.

My craft is dying. Each tailor who goes is an end — let it be.

The old world is crumbling; there is no place in the new,

For the honored work of an old humanity:

 

Declining, caught between modernity and its own flickering light;

Understanding progress, non-comprehending its willingness to subdue humanity;

Man, individual endeavor, its measure of the significance of life:

 

An opus mastered, a flawless coat — man bringing into form:

The children hand in hand on Easter morning,

In suits that poured from me like a fevered song:

 

Non-comprehending its willingness to efface diversity,

To integrate cultures into wholes without quality, without color, without scope:

I am the cobblestone street in the ancient world,

The boy intoning Latin absorbing the old church modes.

 


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