The Memory Quilt

 

I’ve started to make a memory quilt,

piecing together fabric

from all of my mother’s old dresses.

Pink, her favorite color,

reminds me of her cheeks—

she loved her rouge.

Always dressed for the occasion,

when she got sick and lay in the bed,

she still wore the pearls Daddy gave her,

and sometimes I wear them now.

But her favorite dress was the pale green silk.

Every year she took the family portrait

in that dress. She didn’t remember

she’d worn it the year before.

It got to where she didn’t remember much

of her life. “My name is Elizabeth,”

she’d tell me. “But you can call me Bess.”

and I’d say, “Mama, don’t try to fool me.

you know I’m your daughter.”

“I do have a daughter,” she’d say, delighted,

and then, sometimes, “What’s your name?”


I wish I could have made this quilt

before my mother forgot who she was.

I would have covered her in it every night,

and listened to her tell me about this patch—

the dress she wore with me to the symphony,

and that patch—the dress that she had saved,

for all these years, at the back of her closet,

from her honeymoon.

But now I’ll wrap myself in this quilt,

shelter myself in memories of her.

I wonder how I’ll rest

under the weight of its light.

 

*         *          *             *              *

 

Flying Geese

 

The geese are flying home.

Watch as they skim the air,

guiding us through

the land they know.

Rest awhile in the cool shadows.

Drink the deep water.

Listen to the wild geese—

their cry your cry

for the coming land, your own.

 

 The Flying Geese is one of the abolitionist quilt patterns used during the Civil War.

 

*           *                             *                               *                                    *                                 *

 

Pa nDau

(Hmong “flower quilt”)

 

This is our story.

The story of the sun

that hangs over our fields,

reaching its strong arms down,

lifting us toward its light

in our daily prayers. This is the story

of the rain that soaks our fields,

that plasters our hair to our heads

like a crown. This is the story

of the wind that sweeps clean

little paths for us, paths through

the mountains, leading us home.

This is the story of our wanderings,

our souls called forth, our ancestors

waiting at the doorway to heaven,

waiting and bidding us welcome.

 

*          *                          *       *                 *

 

© Anderson O'Brien

 

Bio:  Anderson earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Art History from Hollins University.  She taught ESL before opening a deli with her husband in North Carolina. They recently sold the deli after seven years and moved to South Carolina. She has published poetry in Heavy Bear, Flutter, and The Dead Mule of Southern Literature.