Our grandma taught her nine-patch, strip-piecing,
how to measure, how a fabric falls.
My sister heard her and came out a maker.
She garners fabrics, hoards a jumble-pile.
She’s skilled enough to half ignore geometry,
to spread out winter evenings
and ignore us. Obbligato with the treadle’s whir, she leans
into a tag-sale apron, Japanese cottons,
cambrics dyed one summer in the yard.
She likes found fabric, asymmetries:
She’s taught herself to work by instinct
basting light to dark, canary
to an emerald paisley. We all watch
her coverlets grow wider.
Her expression’s almost revenant
as she rips, re-hems, and irons, mouth
full of pins, cloth billowing around her.
Tonight she sliced our mother’s raw silk saris.
Dark ribbons bloomed and I admired
her fierce concentration to resettle
all her scraps at staggered angles,
the way her body stores her making,
how she destroys each thing she’s salvaged
to harvest it as her exploding star.
An explanation: The week before Christmas, I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma–a small spot on my leg that threatened to turn my world upside physically, yet did upend my world emotionally and mentally and in most every other way. Before this story gets too scary, I should say that I am now home from surgery, convalescing, finding that reading poems on Poetry Daily is about all my anesthesia-fogged-in-mind can comprehend, besides feeling really grateful that the the surgeon excised a chunk of my leg to take out the offending spot and that the adjoining lymph node came up clear — free of cancer.
But it kind of puts a dead stop to things such as preparations for Christmas, as I harbored this little horrid secret away from everyone, not willing to go thunk into their holiday preparations, wanting instead to read only about sweetness and light and those tender feelings that I treasure so about this time of year. So I went silent, instead, the cloth laying idle on the table while I shuttled to lab appointments and doctor’s appointments. Silent, here as well, on this blog, with pictures of holiday cheer a hopeful substitute for the writing. (I did write about it on my other blog.)
The night we found out the news and the big awfulness of it all hovered over us like a black shroud was the same night we had decided to celebrate our Christmas (we were headed off to Ohio to my son’s for the actual holiday). I cooked a full fancy meal, and we sat savoring the good food, the chaotic news, the uncertainty, the tenderness and love we felt for each other in our joined journey together as man and wife and wondered how we would ever bear it if the news should be bad. Turned out two weeks later that it wasn’t, that I can anticipate many more happy years of seeing oncologists and dermatologists and that now I check over every spot on my husband’s arms and back like a mother looks at her child’s face, searching to make sure only happiness is written there, easing away gloom and fright by attention.
So poetry, short and rich and condensed in word and meaning, is my companion tonight and I found this poem which celebrates what we do as quilters: harvesting those quilts which are sown from destruction. I felt it echoed my somewhat somber mood, as I struggle to make sense of things, still too fresh from surgery to sit (it hurts) and finger the cloth. We cannot know how the bumps in our roads will shape us, inform us, or teach us, but I hope to have many more days cutting and sewing, willing my body to “store [my] making.”
I wish you all a Happy New Year. Good things are ahead. Good quilts are in our future.