MY MOTHER PIECED QUILTS

         they were just meant as covers
         in winters
         as weapons
         against pounding january winds

         but it was just that every morning I awoke to these
         october ripened canvases
         passed my hand across their cloth faces
         and began to wonder how you pieced
         all these together
         these strips of gentle communion cotton and flannel
              nightgowns
         wedding organdies
         dime store velvets

         how you shaped patterns square and oblong and round
         positioned
         balanced
         then cemented them
         with your thread
         a steel needle
         a thimble

         how the thread darted in and out
         galloping along the frayed edges, tucking them in
         as you did us at night
         oh how you stretched and turned and re-arranged
         your michigan spring faded curtain pieces
         my father's santa fe work shirt
         the summer denims, the tweed of fall

         in the evening you sat at your canvas
         ---our cracked linoleum floor -the drawing board
         me lounging on your arm
         and you staking out the plan;
         whether to put the lilac purple of easter- against the red
             plaid of winter-going-
         into-spring
         whether to mix a yellow with blue and white and paint the
         corpus christi noon when my father held your hand
         whether to shape a five-point star from the
         somber black silk you wore to grandmother's funeral].

         You were the river current
         carrying the roaring notes
         forming them into pictures of a little boy reclining
         a swallow flying
         You were the caravan master at the reins
         driving your thread needle artillery across the mosaic
             cloth bridges
         delivering yourself in separate testimonies

         oh mother you plunged me sobbing and, laughing
         into our past
         into the river crossing at five
         into the spinach fields
         into the plainview cotton rows
         into tuberculosis wards
         into braids and muslin dresses
         sewn hard and taut to withstand the thrashings of
              twenty-five years

         stretched out they lay
         armed/ready/shouting/celebrating

         knotted with love
         the quilts sing on



                                                       ~ Teresa Elaloma Aco


Aunt Ida Pieces A Quilt


You are right, but your patch isn't big enough -- Jesse Jackson

When a cure is found and the last panel is sown into place, the Quilt 
will be displayed in a permanent
home as a national monument to the individual, irreplaceable people lost 
to AIDS -- and the people who
knew and loved them the most -- Cleve Jones, founder, The NAMES Project

They brought me some of his clothes. The hospital gown.
Those too-tight dungarees, his blue choir robe
with the gold sash. How that boy could sing!
His favorite color in a necktie. A Sunday shirt.
What I'm gonna do with all this stuff?
I can remember Junie without this business.
My niece Francine say they quilting all over the country.
So many good boys like her boy, gone.

At my age I ain't studying no needle and thread.
My eyes ain't so good now and my fingers lock in a fist,
they so eaten up with arthritis. This old back
don't take kindly to bending over a frame no more.
Francine say ain't I a mess carrying on like this.
I could make two quilts the time I spend running my mouth.

Just cut his name out the cloths, stitch something nice
about him. Something to bring him back. You can do it,
Francine say. Best sewing our family ever had.
Quilting ain't that easy, I say. Never was easy.
Y'all got to help me remember him good.

Most of my quilts was made down South. My Mama
and my Mama's Mama taught me. Popped me on the tail
if I missed a stitch or threw the pattern out of line.
I did "Bright Star" and "Lonesome Square" and "Rally Round,"
what many folks don't bother with nowadays. Then Elmo and me
married and came North where the cold in Connecticut
cuts you like a knife. We was warm, though.
We had sackcloth and calico and cotton. 100% pure.
What they got now but polyester-rayon. Factory made.

Let me tell you something. In all my quilts there's a secret
nobody knows. Every last one of them got my name Ida
stitched on the backside in red thread.

That's where Junie got his flair. Don't let anybody fool you.
When he got the Youth Choir standing up and singing
the whole church would rock. He'd throw up his hands
from them wide blue sleeves and the church would hush
right down to the funeral parlor fans whisking the air.
He'd toss his head back and holler and we'd all cry holy.

And never mind his too-tight dungarees.
I caught him switching down the street one Saturday night,
and I seen him more than once. I said, Junie,
You ain't got to let the whole world know your business.
Who cared where he went when he wanted to have fun.
He'd be singing his heart out come Sunday morning.

When Francine say she gonna hang this quilt in the church
I like to fall out. A quilt ain't no show piece,
it's to keep you warm. Francine say it can do both.
Now I ain't so old fashioned I can't change,
but I made Francine come over and bring her daughter
Belinda. We cut and tacked his name, JUNIE.
Just plain and simple. "JUNIE, our boy."
Cut the J in blue, the U in gold. N in dungarees
just as tight as you please. The I from the hospital gown
and the white shirt he wore First Sunday. Belinda
put the necktie E in the cross stitch I showed her.

Wouldn't you know we got to talking about Junie.
We could smell him in the cloth.
Underarm. Afro-Sheen pomade. Gravy stains.
I forgot all about my arthritis.
When Francine left me to finish up, I swear
I heard Junie giggling right along with me
as I stitched Ida on the backside in red thread.

Francine say she gonna send this quilt to Washington
like folks doing from all across the country,
so many good people gone. Babies, mothers, fathers,
and boys like our Junie. Francine say
they gonna piece this quilt to another one,
another name and another patch
all in a larger quilt getting larger and larger.

Maybe we all like that, patches waiting to be pieced.
Well, I don't know about Washington.
We need Junie here with us. And Maxine,
she cousin May's husband's sister's people,
she having a baby and here comes winter already.
The cold cutting like knives. Now where did I put that needle?

~ by Melvin Dixon