d’Verse Poetics: Muses from History

Grandmother's Star patter, public domain image

Grandmother’s Star patter, public domain image

Today, Abrha is our bartender. For his poetics, he wants us to look at art – the ancient art or old art and how it inspires us. He wants us to write about art in other parts of the world or local art – to write about how it was inspired, created and lives still.

I have chosen to write, not about grand monuments or works of stone or painted ceilings; my main focus is the works of art created by women – often overlooked. In my part of the country, there are many folk museums with examples of quilts, lace, hand loomed cloth as well as carved wooden utensils or handforged metal items. Many of these items were born of necessity and frugality but still, the colors and spirits of those who made them come through.

My mother, before she became crippled by arthritis and Parkinson’s, was quite a hand quilter – taught by her grandmother. My grandmother made beautiful tatted lace. I was never able to learn not being talented in that way. So my poem is about the folk art, the things of every day made beautiful with the patina of age or looking forward to the future with hope.

The Forgotten Artist
1 The heavens proclaim the glory of God.The skies display his craftsmanship…Psalm 19:1

she was born into a family of ordinary people –
ordinary people who created simple things that lasted for generations:
the quilt she slept under as a baby made by her grandmother,
the stone wall made with no mortar
standing strong, the raw colors of the stones
softening with the tones of earth, rain, lichens moss.
the garden of flowers and herbs, brought to the new world
in the form of slips, roots seeds –
they bloomed year after year after year.
a living changing canvas of color.

on a shady side porch, when she was a wee thing
her grandmother placed blocks of colored cloth in her hands
and taught her how to sew them together.
she liked the flower garden and arranged the blocks to look like the garden.
and later she was taught how to sew designs on the blocks,
one small stitch at a time.

and later still, her grandmother with cheeks soft as
delicate rose petals put a needle in her hand and taught her
how to draw the thread and knot and weave –

she looked at the stars in the night sky
wondering and dreaming and with the thread
copied them and the stars were sewn in later years
On the linen handkerchief she carried as a bride.

solid blocks of color became patterns – stars:
Southern star, lone star, shooting star –
her first child slept under a quilt of autumn colored stars –
pieced and stitched as he slept inside her.

and many many years later
she sat on the shady porch painfully moving the needle
and gathering the string – tiny lace stars for the
christening gown of her first great grandchild – a girl.

one more inch.
the last star finished and tied off.
and then, with a deep sigh
she fell asleep, smiling.

public domain image

public domain image

24 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
    Aug 11, 2015 @ 16:43:44

    Oh, those things the women made.. My grandmother painted porcelain, and my mother did ceramics. My father painted… So I guess without abilities I had to write. I love the thought of those quilts and textiles.. So much time and passion, I hop you have some treasures left.


    • kanzensakura
      Aug 11, 2015 @ 16:46:07

      I do. currently on our bed is the quilt of pinks and lavendars my mother finished on the day my father died. On the side, embroidered is: For Sis with love from her mama – 03/03/1980 and my christening robe, with the fragile lace made by grandmother is currently visiting with a small local folks arts museum along with other things made by other women.


  2. x
    Aug 11, 2015 @ 17:01:43

    Cool I still have a quilt made for me by my grandmother so heavy and warm we usually break it out when the weather turns
    What a wonderful art too passed down generations to the next
    I wonder how many still quilt
    I do see some up on the side of the barns
    I know it is a relief too when done
    Mine is quilted in a Sun pattern in the middle


    • kanzensakura
      Aug 11, 2015 @ 19:31:11

      Those quilts are so warm. It is amazing how many still quilt. When I was moving my mother from Tampa to TN, we went through part of Alabama. We stpped at a local store and tbey had about 30 quilts on display made by local women. Gorgeous.


  3. Abhra
    Aug 11, 2015 @ 17:04:44

    “she looked at the stars in the night sky
    wondering and dreaming and with the thread
    copied them and the stars were sewn in later years”

    So beautiful and adorable Tony – I am glad you share such a precious memory with us.


  4. charliezero1.wordpress.com
    Aug 11, 2015 @ 18:46:50

    ah! quilts. My mom use to make me quilts when I was little.
    She stopped 10 years ago. I wish she can get back into it.

    This poem is magnificent and delight. 🙂


  5. Victoria C. Slotto
    Aug 11, 2015 @ 19:12:55

    This touched me deeply, Toni. I still have pillowcases with lace edging crocheted by my grandmother. The stone wall especially moved me. As a child I climbed the one built by my grandfather in order to access the branches of my escape pepper tree. So glad you tooki it to a personal level. That is where history breathes for us.


    • kanzensakura
      Aug 11, 2015 @ 19:27:50

      It truly was a beautiful wall…I’ll take that wall over some fancy statue anyday. I think it is great, you climbing your grandfather’s wall. I used to hid little treasures in the openings of the wall. I wonder, to this day, if in repairing parts of the wall, if bits of crayons were found. I have a set of pillow cases my grandmother embroidered and sewed her tatted lace fir me when I left for university.


  6. Mary
    Aug 11, 2015 @ 21:10:13

    This is a beautiful poem/story, Toni. I like the idea that she created works which lasted for generations and also that, in the end, she fell asleep smiling. One would wish nothing at all besides this!


  7. katiemiafrederick
    Aug 11, 2015 @ 23:51:49

    never ordinary
    always Art Now..:)


  8. MarinaSofia
    Aug 12, 2015 @ 01:35:49

    This is touching, Toni, especially since my grandmothers (both of them) also did a lot of crocheting and embroidery, which they learnt in winter by the firelight, together with their mothers and sisters. But sadly, it all broke down with my generation. I can’t and won’t crochet, though they tried to teach me all those skills as a child. I can darn and sew on buttons, though, which I think my children’s generation will have forgotten how to do…
    I particularly like the first stanza, equating art with nature, with the passing of seasons, seeds growing, regeneration, building and planting.


    • kanzensakura
      Aug 12, 2015 @ 12:25:39

      I’m z wizard in the kitchen but total klutz with sewing of anykind. My husband laughs because my sewing kit is duct tape and a stapler. My great grandmother took her designs from nature, the stars, flowers, changing colors of the seasons. I think we have gotten away from nature, firelight, smelling the changes in the weather, the seasons. I look at the lace on my christening gown, the tiny stars all linked together. She put this blessing on me when I was a baby and to this day, I remember how it was when she was a girl and try to live with that awareness.


  9. claudia
    Aug 12, 2015 @ 03:48:55

    isn’t that the perfect way to leave – doing the things we love to do… i wanna fall asleep with a paint brush in my hand one day… sigh… what a beautiful portrait that is… really would’ve loved to see her work those stars into her pieces of craftmanship


    • kanzensakura
      Aug 12, 2015 @ 15:45:20

      My aunt has her bridal handkerchief framed, under glass. It is a beautiful piece of art. My great grandmother was lovely, from all I have heard and seen of her handiwork. Indeed, to fall asleep having finished a task of love.


  10. http://vivinfrance.wordpress.com
    Aug 12, 2015 @ 03:53:58

    That’s my kind of art and my kind of poem. Thank you for the homeyness and comfort of your words. No pretenson, just skill and real life.


    • kanzensakura
      Aug 12, 2015 @ 13:03:27

      Thank you do much for your kind words. This poem meant a great deal to me. I wanted us women to get some nods for the everyday art we do and hand down. I think because of those lace stars on my christening gown, she has also handed down thr message to always look up, find light in darkness, and never forget from whence we came.


  11. Grace
    Aug 12, 2015 @ 08:19:47

    Your poem spoke to me as my grandmother was wonderful with her knots and crochets, still under now preserved by my mother ~ I love the progression of the story, from you as a little girl, to a wise woman – gathering the string – tiny lace stars for the
    christening gown of her first great grandchild – a girl.

    You are very lucky to have these treasures, smiles ~


  12. Glenn Buttkus
    Aug 12, 2015 @ 19:50:08

    Some nice tributes to women out here on the trail (see Grace’s too), My furnace room has shelves along the walls, where several hand-made quilts are sealed in zip-plastic; my wife’s mother & grandmother’s splendid handiwork. Brings to mind the fine musical QUILTERS. But as to you not being handy with sewing & such, you just revel in your other gifts, for they are legion.


    • kanzensakura
      Aug 12, 2015 @ 19:59:58

      I was extremely pleased to read the several excellent tributes to women in this prompt. When the weather turns, we use several quilts made by my mother and great grand mother. The one we do not use Is the beautiful double wedding ring quilt, the last one made by mother. This is mounted in a rack and hangs on the wall in our living room. It always gets compliments and comments when seen by outsiders. She cut, pieced, stitched and quilted by hand and took her two years to complete. Some small tears have occurred on the older quilts which amazingly, I was able to repair.


  13. Raivenne
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 13:09:08

    Oh this touched me. My grandmother was a quilter as well, but this write? Oh this was all her. . Alas, while I have the talent to design such, that patience necessary was not passed down to me. Somewhere in a trunk is a white lace crochet star that was destined for the great grand daughter I was never able to give her. Thank you so much for the warm memories.


    • kanzensakura
      Aug 13, 2015 @ 16:42:19

      I am so happy this brought this memory. The little christening gown with the tiny lace stars, has been framed under glass. It is one of my mother’s precious possessions. One of mine is the double wedding band my mother made for me and finished sewing the day my father died. Theses things remind us of how love continues long after the person has passed. Thank you do much for your kind words.


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