Cultural Fray



Great grandma Ora’s quilt, Mississippi


Cultural Fray
Part 1: Hold Us Together

I’m sitting on top
of my bed
which is
covered by
my great grandma’s
yellow, wool blanket.

She was a seamstress.

Measuring tape…
Pins to mark…
And then, time…
Every piece of clothing
hugged your shape
like a second skin.

And then there was WWI.
And then there was WWII.

Standardized sizes
birthed by
war-time muscle
took over American culture.

Skill and craft
were left behind
for machine efficiency…

My mom says
she learned how to tell
the sex of a baby
by dangling a needle
at the end of sewing thread
over a mother’s wrist.

If it swings in a circle,
it’s a girl.
If it swings in a line,
it’s a boy.

She told me
that her grandma
taught her that…
the seamstress.

I wonder if
she would come back,
great grandma,
to mend the tattered knees and elbows
of this
experimental nation?

Would she?

The machines have broken
our spirits, it seems.
And opiates
don’t seem to ease the pain…

Progress didn’t
discuss it’s intentions
with my great grandmothers.

All the handmade things
became antiques
on display.

I long for a thread
and a needle…
and her hands…

I know she would make something
And even, stitch stories
to hold us together.

Part 2: Hold Me Together

I’ve visited tombstones,
brick houses,
houses that were there,
no more…

…sifted through pictures
with frayed edges,
listened to stories
that move slow
as lowland rivers.

…read your poetry,
even your shopping list
for making orange sorbet…

…held your ceramic urns
and learned about the groundhog
you would fire them in
until they were dark, coffee brown…

…slept in your nightgown
under your quilt…

…cooked in your skillets,
tasted your fried apple pies…

I even carry your name.
I even carry what’s been
left behind.

As sure as the stitches
in this patchwork quilt,
I know these things
connect and bind…
I know these things
hold me together.

May 2017 – Some ponderings on lineage and ancestry by Lindsay Kolasa

2 thoughts on “Cultural Fray

  1. I love this post, Lindsay. It will make you smile to know that six teens in Starkville chose to ‘make’ wellness items rather than listen to wellness lectures… aprons, eye covers for sleep, healthy snacks, herb seedlings. While their hands do and their hearts sing perhaps we can also help their brains know whatever they need to know about wellness.

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