by Melvin Dixon
They brought me some of his clothes. The hospital gown.
Those too-tight dungarees, his blue choir robe
with the gold sash. How that boy could sing!
His favorite color in a necktie. A Sunday shirt.
What I’m gonna do with all this stuff?
I can remember Junie without this business.
My niece Francine say they quilting all over the country.
So many good boys like her boy, gone.
At my age I ain’t studying no needle and thread.
My eyes ain’t so good now and my fingers lock in a fist,
they so eaten up with arthritis. This old back
don’t take kindly to bending over a frame no more.
Francine say ain’t I a mess carrying on like this.
I could make two quilts the time I spend running my mouth.
Just cut his name out the cloths, stitch something nice
about him. Something to bring him back. You can do it,
Francine say. Best sewing our family ever had.
Quilting ain’t that easy, I say. Never was easy.
Y’all got to help me remember him good.
Most of my quilts was made down South. My Mama
and my Mama’s Mama taught me. Popped me on the tail
if I missed a stitch or threw the pattern out of line.
I did “Bright Star” and “Lonesome Square” and “Rally Round,” what many folks don’t bother with nowadays. Then Elmo and me married and came North where the cold in Connecticut
cuts you like a knife. We was warm, though.
We had sackcloth and calico and cotton. 100% pure.
What they got now but polyester-rayon. Factory made.
Let me tell you something. In all my quilts there’s a secret nobody knows. Every last one of them got my name Ida
stitched on the backside in red thread.
That’s where Junie got his flair. Don’t let anybody fool you. When he got the Youth Choir standing up and singing
the whole church would rock. He’d throw up his hands
from them wide blue sleeves and the church would hush
right down to the funeral parlor fans whisking the air.
He’d toss his head back and holler and we’d all cry holy.