The Quilters of Gee’s Bend

I first found Alarie Tennille’s work when I read her poem “The Quilters of Gee’s Bend” in Goodreads.  “Quilters” won the Goodreads contest that month and also received a Pushcart nomination.  Although I’ve read many of Alarie’s poems now, “Quilters” remains one of my favorites.  More information about Alarie’s poetry is on her website.

The Quilters of Gee’s Bend

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
     First published in Poetry East
     Republished in Running Counterclockwise

7 thoughts on “The Quilters of Gee’s Bend

  1. So good to see Alarie featured here, Sarah. I’ve been a big fan of her writing for quite awhile now and this one really stuck with me too. Such beautiful imagery and strong emotions weaving throughout.

    Liked by 2 people

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