Adele Graf

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Riffle Riff

Here’s a notion: riffle through a drawer of buttons knuckle-deep. Fingers tensed at the jangle. Riffle and recoil.

Bronze or gold bulbous, ecru as age-yellowed white. Tangerine or turquoise like 1940s polka dots, tiny with rhinestone nubs. Plastic in the Notions Department.      

Which buttons are as cute as they’re all said to be?

Post-Depression thrift, snipped from old clothes. Buttons translucent so dark backs appear. Salmon pink, lime green squares with rounded corners. Stitched through rear loops, they droop like 1950s button earrings.

Touch them and plunge into pleated hand-me-downs. Fabrics clean but seeped in camphor. Tough luck to get them. Button your lips!

Now clothes keep spare buttons near seams or in discrete plastic bags. No riffle to replace them. No risk of lurking pearleen. Still, my mind is buttoned up.

If buttons fasten the world, how do we hang on? Its surface oozed with mottled-beige blunt spheres, sculpted pink half-domes, huge convex navy blues, small pale mother-of-pearl.

What more can I say with a button sewn onto the tip of my tongue?


Adele Graf’s first poetry collection, math for couples (Guernica Editions), was published  in April 2017. Her first chapbook, a Baltic Friday early in grey (above/ground press), in August 2017. Her poetry has appeared in The Antigonish Review, CV2, The Dalhousie Review, EVENT, The Fiddlehead, Room and Vallum. She lives in Ottawa.