Making Felt: A Poem by Ava Balis

This poem was released to celebrate the launch of Riza Press’s Project Healthy Love, a project showcasing real-life role models of healthy, loving relationships. This project seeks to share true stories of long-term couples, including the success and hardships of their relationships; spread the lessons these couples have learned about love and what it means to be in a partnership, so that we may all learn these lessons and strive towards more fulfilling intimate relationships; give a platform for positive relationship role models, and s how that there is hope for finding true love, and that it does exist!

Making Felt was written while I was with my (now-ex) boyfriend of nearly a year. Although the relationship didn’t last, I learned with him many crucial lessons about what it takes to build a healthy partnership. While the metaphor of making felt is credited to one of my best friends and her bachelorette party, I enacted this metaphor through the relationship and found it to be a very helpful tool for building a healthy relationship towards conflict.

Making Felt
by Ava Balis

I made felt one afternoon
at a bachelorette party
as our instructor spoke about
the delicate art of it…
How you start with frail
wisps of wool
and you need friction –
so much friction –
To bind them,
These first wisps fly
back and forth
they’re unpinned, unstable;
You need to add more and more wool –
adding wool like years;
and bind them with friction –
friction like fights,
and like that exquisite kind of frustration
that binds knots in the base of your stomach
reminding you how deeply you care,
That press and release;
That constant sway back and forth.
And more wool and more wool
and friction and friction
Until the wisps don’t fly away
so easily anymore;
They’re not timid: they know their place
and they stick like glue.
They budge a bit,
but their core stays intact
because by now they’ve weathered enough
storms to know
they’re staying.
They’re strong.
Friction does nothing now
but make it stronger,
this felt.

Now mine…
I approached it carefully
and delicately
and I was too concerned
for its beauty
to ever rub it ugly and tattered
and it stayed beautiful.
It stayed beautiful and perfect on the outside
but when it dried
It flew away in the wind like wisps.
It had flowers on it,
That undid themselves and stuck to my fingers like
What did I do wrong?
You were too afraid of

And just like that
and just like everything else
And everyone else
I gave up and said
I didn’t really want to make felt anyways.
But I did.
I did:
so later I made a square
I beat the hell out of it.
I imagined years
and families
and the little bickers
and the little annoying things
That get on your nerves
but I guess you love them anyways
And I guess the romance plastered against
the back of a Caribbean waterfall
in a travel ad
is the kind that wisps away in the wind
While the other ones
Have learned how to weather it.
I beat it and beat it and moved it
this way and that way
and that friction
like the compromises you make
and the nights you spend listening to
the ugly parts of their story
and the Sundays that don’t give you butterflies anymore,
they just feel like a warm cup of coffee
I guess
that’s what made it
so tough
and ready

For that time we fought
And you were scared that was the end;
I told you
my mother always said to never worry
about fighting –
To only worry about when you stop fighting;
to worry about indifference.
And I tore off a piece of that felt from the felt purse
inside the backpack I hadn’t opened
since before I met you
and I placed it in your palm even though
I was fuming through my nostrils
and I said I loved you.
I told you the story.
I said baby,
let’s make felt.
Let’s make felt.

– Written by Ava Balis