Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Mountain Time [excerpt]

Up here in the mountains
we know what extinct means. We've seen
how our breath on a bitter night
fades like a ghost from the window glass.
We know the wolf's gone.
The panther. We've heard the old stories
run down, stutter out
into silence. Who knows where we're heading?
All roads seem to lead
to Millennium, dark roads with drop-offs
we can't plumb. It's time to be brought up short
now with the tale-tellers' Listen: There once lived
a woman named Delphia
who walked through these hills teaching children
to read. She was known as a quilter
whose hand never wearied, a mother
who raised up two daughters to pass on
her words like a strong chain of stitches.
Imagine her sitting among us,
her quick thimble moving along these lines
as if to hear every word striking true
as the stab of her needle through calico.
While prophets discourse about endings,
don't you think she'd tell us the world as we know it
keeps calling us back to beginnings?
This labor to make our words matter
is what any good quilter teaches.
A stitch in time, let's say.
A blind stitch
that clings to the edges
of what's left, the ripped
scraps and remnants, whatever
won't stop taking shape even though the whole
crazy quilt's falling to pieces.

Credit


From Black Shawl by Kathryn Stripling Byer. Copyright © 1998 by Kathryn Stripling Byer. Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press. All rights reserved.

Author


Kathryn Stripling Byer

Kathryn Stripling Byer grew up in southwest Georgia, graduated from Wesleyan College

Date Published: 1998-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/mountain-time-excerpt