I’ve posted this poem before, but this time I have a photo to go with it.
You sit, bent over the pillow;
click back and forth.
Deftly, you weave silk threads:
over, under, twist and hitch;
under, over, pin and twist.
Beneath your fingers
a brass forest grows
shrouded in gossamer.
(In the photo, the forest is silver rather than brass, but I think it still illustrates the point.)
Apparently, I’ve also used the post title “it’s complicated” before. Looking back, I find that that was a post about acorns and oak trees and the confusion for an English-speaker trying to talk about such things in Spanish. I concluded that we might all be better off speaking Latin.
This time, I chose the title because Spaniards use the phrase hacer encaje de bolillos – to make bobbin lace – to refer to any complex, delicate or painstaking task. It came as a surprise when I first heard the expression: I knew a little about bobbin lace, but hadn’t imagined it would be such a familiar concept in Spain.
I suppose that if El Quixote is compulsory reading in school, Spanish children must come across the scene with his impertinent niece –
una rapaza, que apenas sabe menear doce palillos de randas
– a young hussy who can scarcely handle a dozen lace-bobbins.
But palillos de randas doesn’t seem to connect in any very obvious way to encaje de bolillos, so it seems that there must be some knowledge of the craft if the expression is still used in conversation today.
Shakespeare also alludes to lace making more than once. I read – and supposedly studied – Twelfth Night in school, and have seen the play a number of times but can’t remember ever coming across these lines until this morning when I went looking for information online for this post:
The spinsters and the knitters in the sun
And the free maids that weave their thread with bones
Perhaps if I’d known that Cervantes and the Bard had already said their piece about lace-making, I wouldn’t have bothered to try and write the poem in the first place.