Monday, June 7, 2010

Women's Work and a Quilt in Exile

For my mother’s mother, Carrie

When she died in 1964, the boys heaved piles
of sheets, table runners, doilies, tea-
stained curtains, housedresses patched
with flour sacks, Workbasket pattern
books from attic windows. On
the floor they left the pale
yellow friendship quilt – not for love
of an unloved woman – they simply ran

out of time. In 2010, the cheap cloth probably
from Woolworths is egg-
shell frail, the flossy names little more
than intimations, the granddaughter

legal guardian of Bertha, Emmy, Belinda, Rose,
Melba, twenty-four working-class girls
from saggy blocks of South
St. Paul porches razed in the 1980s
for Swift & Company’s cattle-
yard expansion. Not for shame, only

for modesty, the thread-bare
white square in the bottom left-
hand corner never
embroidered with the maker's name
that only I now recall – Carrie Warren,
daughter of Mary, mother of Gladyce,
whose sons threw her away in 1964.

S. F. Van Burkleo, June 2010, Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan

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