Bio Note: I wrote this poem during the covid surge of last winter when my area was on lockdown. I am a Midwestern high school teacher and Poetry Club advisor. I serve on the board of the Council for Wisconsin Writers and I am English language editor for Poetry Hall: A Chinese and English Bilingual Journal.
Maybe the Greek Symbol for Woman is Really a Needlework Hoop
Embroidered cloth trills its story in bright thread. Hmong women recount steps on sloped terrain, a remote highland life with mist-swirled ancestors, crops, meandering chickens and children. Farmers in black clothes accented with vivid sashes follow cycles of the sun until this ethereal mountain tune turns to lament—advancing soldiers and the flight through thick forest, a reckoning with the merciless current of the Mekong. My mother drowned in crossing, Mai said, touching my forearm. Her eyes have become the river. By amber lamplight, Black women pieced quilts as bold as flags to guide travelers on secret byways. No way to know who survived. Generations of my Mennonite mothers cut up their little girls’ worn out dresses rearranging scraps of childhood into intricate wedding quilts. Their daughters vowed to obey husbands unto death. I focus on finishing the quilting of my own hand-pieced bedspread. The dead drawing ever closer as even close friends are pierced with grief. Solitary evenings my needle weaves back and forth from the quilt top, tight in its hoop, to the other side I cannot see. Firm thread rasps through cloth in its solemn binding of this patterned firmament to some darkened pale mirror.
©2022 Sylvia Cavanaugh
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