Family Bee

What do we have here?  Unrolled and
smoothed and stretched on its frame, till
we ken the pattern—
we fit together
in spite of our own separate ways.

Dewey’s bib-alls waltz in stitch time,
side by side with Flora’s kerchief.
Pink lawn, fragile, and
blue denim, sturdy—
never to part this side of Jordan.

Satin pillow slips, broidered round
and round the open end, with love
and yellow daisies—
a gift from Sister,
to please Aunt Nan. Too pretty to use.

Flowered dimity, matched up with
Emo’s striped silk Sunday necktie.
Too shy to tell her
any feelings, Emo
lost his dark-eyed Fannie to a friend.

Shawl of cutwork, fringed and spangled,
Marcel wore it to
town one night—
and never came back.
Her folks found a baby,
wrapped in spangles, wailing on their porch.

Black gabardine dress sleeve, shiny
with age and long wearing.  Widowed
at 18, Aunt Lou never
wore any color but black.
Lived her years lonely.

Scrap piece of great-grandmas
burying shroud, tucked in where it’s
needed, together
with smocked white cotton—
a great-grandchild’s christening gown.

Blue dotted swiss against heavy
sacking; Marilla and Vonnie—
two sisters who loved
the same man.  He chose—
and regretted it all of his days.

Apron strings, made not to untie
until they weren’t needed—too late—
she’d strangled the plans
right out of her son.
Stitched along-side, knotted-up, tight-bound.

Poke-weed, walnut, indigo pot—
cloth colors faded, long gone to gray—
like the heads of the
ones who remember
what stories came out in the washing.

We gather to draw up the threads—
needles flash, finish the starting,
forming the patterns—
underneath just like
above—if only we could see it.

 

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