Fall 1990, Volume 7.2
Finding the Quilter in Her Quilt
"The pink square--that's the lady,
that's the only square that's the lady."
(I have said there might be one patch
sentimental in the king-bed quilt.)
Everyone's hands around it--they jury;
they say it looks like uncles' clothes.
Others know it is all the woman,
all of its newly poured black and steaming streets,
rollered, tarry, crystalline, unanullably mapped.
And in the center,
dark blue, herringbone, and brown scraps
from scraping-by suits. Old seam-holes here.
Selvedges. I think she took in husband's
for sons. I think she has no daughter and she isn't
getting any thinner.
In winter they all shiver.
She's the kind that will not rest
till she's increased present heavy love
by one bedcover.
Having never heard such a first bird
"This is the Freedom Quilting Bee. We've
run out of gingham?"
like a question but the caller doesn't
I expiate: "Solid sky-hues,
earth-tones will do"; I atone
through West Coast pre-dawn last dark
as if answering.
She looks out at low sun,
an Alabama workday's just begun. Nests stir
less outside my window than hers.
I feel the moment in her voice
when she finds
herself turning from
the fear and chagrin of absence of gingham
to the first redemptive scrap of blue.
I Cannot Teach Her Closure
The door is open and the gate is open
all the way to the fields.
How poorly the things we live with care--
the crushed sidewalk, the hollow door.
All they know is how to tell
the wildest guest just where we are.
Child, why did you forget, leave our secrecy so wide
while I slept in the queen's chamber
at the deep end of the house?
It is something to feel the ajar as final--
does it arrest you, are you
rapt in its beautiful view?
At worst life loses us. At best
the halls roll in fat battings of fog.
It has poured down narrows before--
through feathers to bird-warmth,
through long slides of iris leaves to roots.
Announce it then: Here we camp,
two women in our pale black dawn.
And here comes our assailant:
Snail, in its own open door, in ours.
Southside Estate-Sale Quilt and Ghost
Left side red arrows and cotton flesh,
right half living
with red grown scarce,
If there is a place granted for everything,
no mother of right homes
can hope for enough of everything
to fill each place.
As she moves across the quilt the color
by paleness for strong longing,
filmy outline for magnificent full wish.
One block is snowy, icy, with what's left.
But the washed-out still carries its warmth-weight,
The flag of --, dead in Southside Chicago at the age
She believed those intricate steps
led to one complete
seemliness, one accomplished faith
close to finesse, a comportment
achieved with duckweed-size garment shreds.
From this she learned
how to piece back the red
She learned that in blue, bleared distance bloom red flowers
and the end-knot
of her patience.