Today is February 24th. It is 72 degrees and muggy, and there are flying insects swarming and dancing above my front yard. This is not the kind of winter day that inspires a poem. It inspires a head scratch. It’s just plain weird. Got me grasping at my roots…
My bones’ wrappings rendered worthless
and the chill goes all the way through.
I marvel that my blood doesn’t thicken
and slow in my very veins.
But here it is December
and the air is as it should be:
stinging and cracking.
The Indian Summer, another typical Carolina autumn,
has abandoned us just of late –
stayed right up through Thanksgiving.
My fingers are blue.
Thank God for Mammaw’s quilt.
She told me
she made four quilts the winter
she was pregnant with Daddy.
Four. Large. One had butterfly shapes
with tattered edges appliqued
onto squares, then she quilted each square
by hand, tiny stitches. One was a log cabin
one a wedding ring, one a string
She was eighteen. They lived
in an outbuilding behind her sister’s house
in a Tennessee mountain valley
that winter of 1936. Tiny hand stitches
pushed through layers of thick cotton
batting. Tiny stitches and
little light, little heat.
The butterflies are on my lap
now, white with faded pink flowers
on a checkerboard of green and white
squares. The batting
has escaped from some worn places
tangled on itself. Like a coil
of my grandmother’s blonde hair
when she was four
before she got rheumatic fever
and her locks fell out. It is winter.
I have plenty of light, heat. I could no more
make four quilts in a season
than I could make the four horseman
of the Apocalypse appear and don’t suppose
I’ll ever have to do either.
Still I am cold. Still I complain.
Still I marvel.
from String Quilt