131. Mrs. Mack

And the quilting:
It set such
A peace on every
Stitch they took and
Every word they
Spoke. So thought
Mrs. Mack. She
Lay down and
Mused upon the day. How
Amiably they
Quarreled, all those
Young ones piecing,
Bent above their squares!
She and Margaret Neal
Had taught them well.

She smiled,
Picturing her
Ragged ancient templates–
Patterns she had
Treasured as a girl.
Way before Ben’s
Death. Before
The children. Before
Ben….
Dancing at
The wedding. Her eyes
Closed. All had been
Passed on now.

Way of the world:
In the course of 
Things, some knowledge,
Lost.
Daughters and
Granddaughters wove no
Cloth. All,
Bought from stores! Aye,
Neither did they
Know the dyes and
Mordants–these
Margaret had taught her,
Maggie with her canny
Recipes–mix this and
That–I loved to
Watch! Watch….
Mrs. Mack’s breath,
Slowing for her sleep….
The girls’ shouts
Braiding, chiming, playing
Jumprope down the street….
More and more I
Love to listen,
Watch. At long last
There is time.

Turkey red,
Most sought-after
Color for your
Quilt: mix madder
Root. For light pink,
Mix it mild.
Hulls of walnut
Juice and butternut–gave
Black, and those rich
Browns so fine for coats.
Wrung from tea shrub:
Shades of cinnamon.
Sumac laced with
Copperas made gray.

Joe-Pye weed that
We called Indian weed, boiled
Down dark yellow.
For a paler
Yellow, Queen Anne’s
Lace–gathered
At back door–or
Lily-of-the-valley,
Sprigs of bells.
Dandelion root gave up
Magenta. Heart of
Cocklebur a hidden
Gold.
Picking larkspur,
Heaping it in baskets,
Shredding, grinding–
Pestles carved from wood–
Stirring till our
Hands stained indigo….
Cocklebur, deep gold.

Must have been back
In my mother’s garden.
I’d broke off one
Spear of hollyhock–naughty
Girl–I stood and
Held it in my hand.
I was waiting
For her to be angry.
Strange though, she was
Not. She cut
Marigolds and
Wove them in two
Strands. Two small
Circlets. Then she
Held them up. She
Held them to
The sky. While I sat
At her knees.
Then she crowned
Herself. And then crowned
Me.

My, I
Never was so
Pleased.

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