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This poem came out of the May 3, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from natasiakith and aldersprig. It was sponsored by natasiakith. I've always been fascinated by quilt magic and folklore; my grandmother was a quilter, and I've done a bit with this myself. Among the sites I searched were Quilt Magic with its page on experienced magic, and the "quilt codes" of the Underground Railroad. Quilts are a form of folk art, and like folk tales, they are a part of history that often remains hidden. Yet these aspects of culture can be far more pervasive, powerful, and enduring than the "fine art" or "great literature" accessible to only a few.
the magic of needle and thread,
the stories told in fabric,
the things handed down
from grandma to granddaughter.
There are the hints
about how to make a quilt comforting --
the cat hairs for catnapping,
the tufts of wool for counting sheep.
There are the reminders of humility --
make one small deliberate mistake
because only God can create perfection,
or because a small mistake prevents a large one.
Leave your seam ripper open,
and you won't have to rip seams;
but close it, and you will.
There are the bits of women's wisdom --
if an expectant mother makes a baby quilt,
saving all the snips of thread and cloth
in a bottle to be buried near her home,
then her baby will be born safely.
There are the stories,
never written down, only told,
that quilts marked the routes
of the Underground Railroad --
Tumbling Blocks to say
that a conductor was coming,
Flying Geese and the North Star
to show the way to freedom,
Drunkard's Path as a warning
to avoid the hunters,
Log Cabin as a sign
for a station.
Quilt magic ain't fancy,
ain't meant to be.
Quilt magic gets the job done,
on the quiet,
sure and strong as women's hands.
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