By | 1 May 2021

Father Alfred [1]

It is said the earthquake is the migration of animals that cannot be seen.  A stampede actually picking apart the foundation that falls.

He told them about the cross as they were quilting.

Mostly it was dislocating as the work of assimilation.

Quilting is a brutal craft that begins with scissors.  It is Christianity with its swords and thorns and nails.  The names of quilts— Sawtooth.  Streak of Lightning. Shoo fly.  Crucifixion.  Crazy Quilt with squares going everywhere. Without pattern.  But the end is the preservation of cloth that otherwise would not be preserved.

In the earthquake buffalo hide is remembered.  The bone needle and sinew.  Now the paper bit me or maybe it is his needle in my hand.  At night my grandmother talks to me about quilting.

There are rifts in the texts I read.  Fissures underneath.  These are the names of the quilts they made— Fort Parker Massacre 1836.  Battle of Plum Creek 1840.  Battle of Palo Duro Canyon 1874.  Battle of Yellow House Canyon 1877.

Father Alfred [2]

Father walking hooves his feet

Maybe now it is him— wearing a horse mask with wooden ears— eyebrows held on with brass upholstery-studs and teeth that are stubs of dowel rods.

He lectures from the chalk board on solecism— a word that refers to an ungrammatical combination usually of words— but also of thought.

Solecism is a dream-word.  He is against it.  We must learn to write clearly. We must give up our old language— though a thought walks two paths at once.

Does he not know a horse carried language to the earth because it was the heaviest load?  Therefore a sentence starts with hooves.

He has four legs under his robe.  In his sleep at night he neighs.  His room beneath theirs in the school.  I am writing on my tablet.  Near the end his legs kept running.

The Story-teller Nails Her Thesis to the Quiltmaker’s Door [3]

In those days fabric was sparse.  We held onto our clothes or she would cut them into pieces.

Near death her hand kept stitching.  She sewed to the end of the road.

I stitch pieces together too— pieces of cloth that have been cut— that have been wounded in the cutting.  Only my fabric is stories—

My mother had a taffeta skirt she kept it in the back of her closet.  After she died, I found the skirt.

When light shines on it, the skirt is like copper.  When I wear the skirt I hear the deer-skin dresses with elk teeth sewn to them.  I hear the jingle dresses with tobacco-can lids rolled into small cones— sewn close enough they speak when I move.

When did she wear the skirt?  Where did she get it?  How did she hide it from my grandmother, the quiltmaker?

Maybe my mother wore the skirt in a dream— floating above the bed until she found the window— flying out into the cold winter air.

I see her in the taffeta skirt.  A large bird’s head on her shoulders.  Bird-claws sticking out beneath the skirt.  My grandmother trying to capture her with thread and needle from a peddler who came to the reservation and continued up the dirt road.

Maybe my mother passes above me in the night.  The taffeta smooth as tanned deer-hide scraped with a worked stone.

I have two stones from a buffalo jump— one, an ordinary stone— the other with an indent for a thumb, a worked stone that scraped hide until it was transformed by the visceral work of cutting— of making something of the parts.

There may have been 100 million Indians on this continent when the Europeans landed.  90% were killed by smallpox, cholera, tuberculosis, measles, massacre.

I hear my grandmother’s spirit-voice from the next world— she does not approve.  I tell her we work in our different ways— but they are the same.


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