Sunday, April 17, 2011


Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz


When I was going to get married, you gave me a quilt.
The Wedding Ring, but the links were doubled. You had pieced
and sewed it by hand and it was beautiful, meant to grace
my marriage bed. I thought
you'd change your mind when I changed
mine, but you let me keep it anyway.
maybe, one day


Your work was always on display at the County Fair.
The state recognized you as a contemporary, traditional quilt maker
             and your quilts
hung in the Palace of the Governors. A magazine article and a splash
of fame in the life of a maid.
Later, when I worked for the Smithsonian, I offered your name
for the folklife program. The local coordinator was surprised.
Rosie Brooks is your grandmother? he asked.
And I smiled big, proud to say yes.
So proud.


I only wanted to learn the Bear Claw. So much a little girl, collecting plush
              and porcelain.
The other names meant nothing to me -- “The Log Cabin,” “ Strip,” “Flower Baskets.”
A “Britches Quilt” was what your family poor, black and in Texas
made to keep warm. Old britches were always saved. Your daddy's and your brothers.'
But I only wanted to learn the Bear Claw. And I didn't want anything
             made from leftovers.


Before you forgot who I was, you gave me
all the quilt tops you had. Of ten grandchildren, only I loved to sew. I dropped by
a quilt shop, once, bought muslin, but not the batting. You kept asking me and I
made excuses.
Later, when you left the hospital, in those days of your dying,
I would tell you how I was finally making progress.
I even promised to bring you a quilt for your medical bed in your daughter's house.
Yes, I lied. But I didn't care because talking of quilts made you smile.


Almost Christmas. A year after your death. At a craft show,
a woman stands and watches me stitching a bear by hand. She asks if I ever prick
myself and goes on to share how hand quilters often leave drops of their blood
in the seams. Later, at home, I unpack the quilt tops and lay them across
the living room floor. On my knees, I search the stitches
for that which also flows through my veins. Search for what I need in order
to do what you have entrusted to me, and finish it all.


Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz is a fiction writer and poet as well as a teddy bear making and aspiring photographer. She blogs about life at and about writing.

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