Sunday, March 23, 2008
The Quilts of Gee’s Bend
-after viewing the exhibit at the Whitney Museum
They hung like Jesus on bare walls,
far from the curve in the Alabama River
where they were born. Crowds gathered
and gawked as the quilts looked on,
silently accepting their fate
while the lives of their makers
were examined stitch by stitch.
There is no death for some things,
no story so simple that it can be told
without color or form. See
the edges where wildflowers grow?
The sides lined with bands of corduroy
marching against the grain?
The bars of crimson rising like Hallelujah!
in a church on Sunday morning?
The spirit emerges with or without
resurrection and lives in the denim
strips salvaged from worn work pants.
If you listen, you can hear them whispering
their prayers for the children
they have held and helped conceive,
the sick they have nursed
and the dead they could not save,
for nights spent chasing dreams,
days spent snapping in a breeze.
- Irene Latham
This poem was the start of my obsession with the quilters of Gee's Bend. Four novels later, I am still fascinated. And the reason I have chosen to post this particular poem today is because it was a favorite of my mother-in-law. She and I shared a love of quilts.
“Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.”
- Claude Monet