Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Quilt Riffs

—Shawn Aveningo, Rescue

My mother is like a quilt,
A beautiful, handmade heirloom quilt.
A lifetime of experiences
Mitered together with love.
Some of those times were joyous
While others were rough
(just like that first sewing project of young).
But the heart-shaped medallion of her quilt
With its warm hues bursting
Into an array of blossoms,
Shines forever strong.
And just like a precious heirloom
She passes these things unto me.
Through her love, support, advice, and listening,
She has helped me patch together my own quilt.
And like that wonderful old quilt
My mother has kept me warm.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

She points at the new sign on the store-front,
downtown Main Street. Quilt Works. “Whatever
kind of work,” she asks, “does Guilt do?”

“You know,” he says, “those old hand-made
comforters of torn-up clothes, what grandmothers
and mothers used to always keep around.”

“I know about scraps and rags you’d best be
rid of. Things you’d rather forget. But guilt—
do they actually sell it? Who would buy?”

“Not Guilt—the sign says Quilt.” “Same thing,”
she says. “Layers of old mistakes stitched
one on top of another. Just try to sleep under it.”


—Taylor Graham

The anger comes out through the fingers,
these threads forced through fabric,
the needle’s prick.

And yet, she wouldn’t have dreamed the colors.
Crimson, black, a fire guttering; storm cell
building up to thunderhead.
And that’s only the first quilted square.

The next one, heavy gray wool,
complexion of a man who chokes
on T-bone cooked just right.

This square commemorates
the empty bed: a patch of flowered
flannel sheet, roses nestled in forget-
me-nots, with her stitching
X’ed across each petal.

The labors of a year, that’s how long
it took to work hurt
into the measured squares.


—Margaret Ellis Hill, Fair Oaks

Once a month, Sally Little, Permelia Jones,
Nancy Manley, Mary Ann Hiter and Maude Gaither
settle in a circle on cushioned porch chairs
at my Aunt Lettie’s. Braced with sweet tea,
cookies and a few hours, they thread and ply
needles that staple fabric squares together
with tiny stitches. The gossip begins
as if a dowdy flock of birds gather—
twittering and fussing, discussing a meal
while scratching gravel to find the most
juicy tidbits to fill the mind while fingers work.
They must look forward to these afternoons,
each for the joy of the working on something
concrete or to fancy scandalous senarios.
I have to smile; they forget about the young girl
pretending to sleep on a porch swing nearby.


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Quilts were never the fashion in our house,
not for the Kentucky transplants on Mom’s side.
If, therefore, I want a quilt, I’ll have to sew one.
What would it have? Patches of old loved things discarded,
now that old photos transform into appliquès:

we’d see the great bed once more, of cherry wood?
Mahogany? hand-fitted, taken to pieces first
to reach Kentucky, then again to reach California.

Then, stern and primitively rendered portraits
of Methodist ancestors, Robinsons, Taylors, Glascocks,
and on Dad’s side, a panopticon of Creightons
and Goffs and assorted church-founding Presbyterians,
on Nora’s side would be Omas and Opas, one
Opa a proud large-animal veterinarian of Riga
reduced by emigration to poultry inspector,
another turned humble but loving Nebraska farmer:

placed piecemeal on a soft quilt atop new beds,
woven reversibly-irreversibly into the fabric,
these dozens of eyes of Old Ones following
us every toss and turn would endow our dreams
with dream-eyes, eyes that are spares, prosthetic rolling
glass to insert and be seen through, seeing true darkness.

What else? We’d see the temporary centaur shapes
of Mom and Grandma in skirts atop affectless burros
clambering down the Grand Canyon, or else in Mexico;
the leaf-straying heaps of photo-album snapshots
with Moctezuma’s plumed crown, Carlotta’s necklace,
and a blue-rebozoed Oaxacan woman in a lithograph
who broods massive and iron-faced over a tile-roofed town:

the rust shapes of tricycles, the dead forms of pets
Jeoffrey, Milo, Frisky, Chicken Henry,
a Latvian birch forest to escape the strafing
only to see one’s wooden bowls half-starved:
so many swirling life-shapes stilled to cloth,
they might be small shabtis taking up the burden
of sleep-sojourning Pharaohs, or the armed clay vassals
of Chinese emperors, thousands of deaths ago.

The AIDS quilt on display
in Washington, D.C.


Today's LittleNip:

If you could make a quilt to represent your life, what would some of the squares be—from the past, present, future?



SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:


Now available: two new chapbooks from Joyce Odam:
Peripherals: Prose Poems
(illustrated by Charlotte Vincent)
and Rattlesnake LittleBook #2 (Noir Love).

That’s at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento.

WTF!: The second issue of WTF, the free quarterly journal from Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe that is edited by frank andrick, is now available at The Book Collector or through, or send me two bux and I'll mail you one.
Deadline for Issue #3 (which will be available at Luna's Cafe on
Thursday, August 20
) was July 15; next deadline will be Oct. 15.
Submission guidelines are the same as for the Snake, but send your poems, photos, smallish art or prose pieces (500 words or less) to (attachments preferred) or, if you’re snailing, to P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726 (clearly marked for WTF).
And be forewarned: this publication is for adults only, so you must be
over 18 years of age to submit. (More info at

RATTLESNAKE REVIEW: Issue #22 is now available (free) at The Book Collector, or send me four bux and I'll mail you one. Or you can order copies of current or past issues through Deadline is August 15 for RR23: send 3-5 poems, smallish art pieces and/or photos (no bio, no cover letter, no simultaneous submissions or previously-published poems) to or
P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. E-mail attachments are preferred, but be sure to add all contact info, including snail address. Meanwhile, the snakes of the on-going Medusa are always hungry; keep that poetry comin', rain or shine!
Just let us know if your submission is for the Review or for Medusa, or for either one, and please—only one submission packet per issue of the quarterly Review.
(More info at

Also available (free): littlesnake broadside #46: Snake Secrets: Getting Your Poetry Published in Rattlesnake Press (and lots of other places, besides!): A compendium of ideas for brushing up on your submissions process so as to make editors everywhere more happy, thereby increasing the likelihood of getting your poetry published. Pick up a copy at The Book Collector or write to me (include snail address) and I'll send you one. Free!


Join us at The Book Collector Wednesday, September 9 at 7:30 PM
for the release of a new chapbook by
Susan Finkleman
(Mirror, Mirror: Poems Of The Mother-Daughter Relationship, illustrated by Joseph Finkleman);
plus a new HandyStuff blank journal from Katy Brown (A Capital Affair);
a littlesnake broadside from Marie Reynolds (Late Harvest);
and a brand new issue of Rattlesnake Review (#23)!


Medusa encourages poets of all ilk and ages to send their POETRY, PHOTOS and ART, as well as announcements of Northern California poetry events, to (or snail ‘em to P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726) for posting on this daily Snake blog. Rights remain with the poets. Previously-published poems are okay for Medusa’s Kitchen, as long as you own the rights. (Please cite publication.) Medusa cannot vouch for the moral fiber of other publications, contests, etc. that she lists, however, so submit to them at your own risk. For more info about the Snake Empire, including guidelines for submitting to or obtaining our publications, click on the link to the right of this column: Rattlesnake Press ( And be sure to sign up for Snakebytes, our monthly e-newsletter that will keep you up-to-date on all our ophidian chicanery.