The Quilters of Gee’s Bend


“Sunrise Chesterfield” -Dennis Jordan (c)

Seems like that old river tied
itself in a knot just to keep
black folks there at Gee’s
Bend while time and fortune
swept on by.

And Master Pettway gave
those folks his name, but
stripped everything else he
could.  Left just scraps,
but they were used to that.

So those hands that hardly
needed something else to do
unraveled their worn-out
world.   Pieced together
remnants of Africa
and raggedy dreams
to make something new.

Let dress tails dance
with britches—heat from
the cotton fields pressed
deep in their seams.
So tired of plowed furrows,
they let their stitches bend
now and then just like
that river.   Nothing perfect,
yet God was in the details.
And the quilters called that
making do and visiting and
keeping warm and pulling up
memories each night,
till one day they were told—
we call that art.

© Alarie Tennille, published in Poetry East. 
Twice Nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Winner of Goodreads Poetry Contest, December 2015.