This is the semi-Amish quilt I bought at the annual Amish auction in Rexford, Montana, in 1995. True Amish quilts don’t use printed fabrics, only solids, but this Log Cabin was quilted by an Amish woman and pieced by an “English” who used three prints, including one with yellow Van Gogh-ish sunflowers on a teal background.
The quilt, as shown in the photo, used to hang on a rack in the hallway of our Fairfield house. I remembered it this morning when I flipped open the book of poems I bought at Interior Books in Smithers a couple of weeks ago. I’d never heard of the poet, George Elliott Clarke, even though he has won the GG and is “widely admired” and has been Toronto’s poet laureate for the last three years. Maybe that’s why I don’t know his work. Toronto is a country I promised myself I would never have to go back to—a pledge I made after driving from Niagara Falls to Ajax on the QEW in an apocalyptic thunderstorm.
George Elliott Clarke hails from Windsor, Nova Scotia. Wikipedia says he’s created a cultural geography he calls Africadia. The book, which I bought because I liked the cover art and the price had been reduced enough to make it almost seem free (man, it must be hard to make a living as a poet), is Whylah Falls. The collection of images, prose, and poetry is set in a mythical Black community in Nova Scotia in the 1930s.
The poem I flipped open to was “Quilt.” I share my edited version below, with apologies to Clarke for the liberties I took with it. I trust he’ll understand. Like he says, “only the Devil ain’t tired of history.”
Sunflowers are sprouting in the tropical livingroom.
Pablo, I am falling away from words.
The newspaper scares me with its gossip of
Mussolini Boko Haram and
the dead of
The radio mutters of
Spain Belgium and bullets.
Only the Devil ain’t tired of history.
Yesterday, I saw — puzzled beside railroad tracks — a horse’s
Roses garlanded the ribs and a garter snake rippled greenly
through the skull.
The white moon ripples in the darkness of fallen rain.
The sunflowers continue in the living room.
The latest reports from
Germany Beirut are all bad.
I quilt, planting sunflower patches in a pleasance of thick
I weave a blanket against this world’s freezing cruelty.