127. Piecing

“Who has
Honey Comb?”
“Here! Honey Comb.”
“Here, Forbidden Fruit!”
“Grandma’s
Flower Garden.”
“Baby’s Blocks.”
“Basket!”
“Crosses-Losses.”
“Lafayette Orange Peel.”
“Corn And Peas–”
“Log Cabin–”
“Same as
Hour Glass?”

On their knees, twelve
Women in a circle.
Mrs. Mack, the eldest, master
Quilter–
She’d bequeathed her
Patterns, time-worn, bent,
So they’d not be
Lost. Each template
Had been given
To a different
Woman, each
Assigned a square to
Stitch at home.
On this day they’d
Piece squares in a sampler.
Each had brought her
Single square along.

Spread
On the floor, bright
Jumble of designs.
Square named Baby’s
Blocks could trick the eye–
Shaded right, these
Blocks sprang out fat,
Real. Next,
Square, ellipse in
Circle: Lafayette. Third,
Carolina Rose, called
Out here Prairie Rose,
Heart-deep petals
Unfurled in smooth
Tiers. Some squares
Moved: the clever
Darting Minnow,
Wobbling colors
Flashing through its space.
Angled, flawless,
Bird In Flight took
Wing. Some squares
Stood: the sturdy
Basket, handle
Arching side to
Side. Some squares
Flickered–Lone Star
Burning from its
Center, red-gold
Rays. A Mack
Trademark: each
Square must make some
Use of useless scraps,
Petals stitched from
Patches, stars from
Bits.

“Jeanine,
That’s fine Endless
Chain. So many
Twists. If one
Ring is off, bad
Luck.” Heads nodded.
“Endless Chain?” asked
Patty–“But that’s
Texas Tears, I’m
Sure. Ma’s done that.”
From a  nearby
Chair spoke Mrs. Mack:
“Texas Tears it was
Back with the settlers.
Before Brothers’
War, we called it
Then Slave Chain.
Slave Chain was for
Years, our mamas
Made it. And
Before, Margaret?”–
Asking Mrs. Neal, her oldest
Friend. “Job’s
Tears,” Mrs. Neil replied, all
Smiles: this sampler,
Her idea.

They laid squares five
Down and four across. They
Rocked back on their
Heels: now, how to
Piece? Since
Vi and June could
Only stitch so-so,
They had each been
Given easy squares.
But those two, and
Also Mrs. Tatum,
Were the best at
Placing: that, their task.
Frowning, they moved
Squares, they shifted,
Mused. “Vi,
Can’t put Drunkard’s
Trail in corner
Slots–not firm–
Put Dove At
The Window”–left by Opal–
“There, it stops
The eye. No, upper
Corner! It’s too
Light!” Vi, to
Mrs. Tatum, who was older:
“Well?”
Mrs. Tatum,
Humming. “It’s wrong.
Partly. See that
Rocky Road To Kansas?
Baby’s Blocks, too
Close. They wiggle
Both same way.” They
Changed these.
June leaned forward:
“It’s all red, left
Side.” They contemplated.
“Tell you what….”
Tentative….decided:
“Think one switch will
Do it. Lost Ship
Where there’s Windmill.
Carpenter’s Wheel–
There!”
Magic: lines and
Tints poured even rhythm,
Cabling, flowing,
Till they shone as
One.

But more flaws were
Found. And
So for hours,
They debated
Order–pointing,
Speaking, each one
From her standpoint
Seeing all
Afresh. Next up
Was the edge trim,
The quilt border:
If it called
Attention to itself,
Too plain or too
Fancy, it could
Wreck the whole.
If the border
Picked up awkward
Shapes, wrong colors–
The squares would go
Cock-eyed, lurch, and
Fade. Borders
Were the certain
Mark of master quilts.
Mrs. Mack:
“It should only
Bring out what’s inside–
Hold the squares in
Without holding them,
Let them move.
Like bed does
A river.”

Anxiously they
Bent above the trim.

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