We agree to weave our own ways through galleries
trusting our patterns to find each other.
I'm looking into fire coming from the dragon's mouth
and flames coming from his inner eye.
Sue McCarty's quilt bows to Tolkein from Utah.
Remember to tell Marty of the single eye in each shield.
The Southern Man talking loud
behind me is not Neil Young. He's claiming
this was all sewn up in Taiwan or China
and his wife tells him to shush
or she'll have him tossed.
I'm still in Middle Earth when Karen comes up
and says, I'm looking close at the stitching
and you're reading bios of quilters.
Read this, I say, pointing to McCarty's words in my notebook:
Gollum is difficult to place because he's only a memory.

"That bronze in here is all done with bronze
thread, the gold and silver, all thread,"
Karen says. "I learned that in Threadplay, years ago,
and I want to show you the quilt my teacher made."
The number of worlds on these walls makes a star chart
of the summer sky. Mariye Waters of Melbourne says
that a guilded plaster ceiling panel
from the Islamic Arts Museum inspired her.
Tell me which quilts in each gallery moves you most
so we know how to map our talk on the highway.
Karen leads me to Memorial Day Quilt suspended
and free of any wall. Loose threads from 4,038 frayed
American flags, one for each U.S. soldier killed in Iraq
at the time of the quilt's making. This is what quilts do to me, too.
"Did you see the Extinction Quilt in three layers
of silk, silk, and rayon with cotton threads?"
Wrap, enclose and enfold, Pamela Fitzsimons writes,
"Australia leads the world in mammal extinctions,
28 species disappeared in 220 years of Europeans."
A possum skin cloak made by the indigenous.

How many quilts are made after a grandmother's death?
I ask Karen. Did you see the Wild Rose? Where
the quilter discovered a box of her grandma's Friendship Blocks?
Or he woman inspired by photo remains of a quilt
partially destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871?
Quilts are practical histories.
Practicality, yes, that wears them out,
versus the precious memories famed and preserved on walls.
African-American quilters argue that with daughters.
I think there's an Alice Walker short story.
Will you look on the map and locate Gee's Corner, Alabama?
Remember those quilts on postage stamps?
All these ambiguous birds count on me to respond.

"Amish and Mennonite quilts are the most distinctive,
of all traditional quilts,"Karen says. "Why?"
"Because of colors. And those colors don't come
from who's who in American decorator homes.
Look at these: Mennonite Bars, Double Chain,
and Diamond on Point. All traditional.
"Look at the colors. Read about Vibrations."
The curator says color vibration happens
when two colors of equal intensity are placed
next to each other. Eyes can't focus.
Colors appear and vibrate.
Joseph's Coat puts four colors together.
Yellow, orange, red and purple.

Quilts take the quilters outside of time
in order to preserve it. This doesn't turn quilts
into elegies or poems. Quilts take quilters
through time in order to change it.
Is that right? Well--did you see
the lace curtains in Summer Wind?
"Could you feel the breeze?" I liked the tea and saucer,
her embroidery, and I liked her book on the stand.
I could see pages turning. Deeper and deeper dives
into thread, and not only thread, but paint, too.
It's chenille, Karen says, like I did with your vest.
Cut each layer open and fray the material with a knife.
The joy of life walks into cut squares of cloth,
cut and sewn into blocks on barnyard walls.
"My favorite quilt came from a single piece of white cloth
with all colors coming from different colored threads."
Pastels of orange, yellow and green. Yes,
and Spring Mountain, the quilter's mother,
giving her a face and a voice--not just
to her mother, but to all forgotten and marginalized.
You have the walk of one dazed by threads in light.
The white wizard Gandalph walks in fields of tight silver stitching.

Jim Bodeen
15 July 2010
Davey Crockett State Park, Tennessee


Cicadas in surround sound singing
with the insects, wake me to the heavy breathing
of Sister Sadie Sadie, telling me in her gentle way
to get up and get her a drink of water.
She's been swimming in slow moving water.
I let her go, and she went, and her swim
seemed to be interrupted several times
as she snapped her head and barked.
Cicadas wake me in wonder.
What might have been nipping
at Sadie Sadie's belly? I lose my dreams
questioning what's left of my good judgment.
Where do I get these things?
When did I cross paths with good judgment?
Paul Tillich's ashes nourish a roofless church
surrounded by unmarked graves of Lutheran Separatists.
I swear to God.
I rub my good dog's belly.

Jim Bodeen
15 July 2010


Wondering if we could make it
to the small town before quitting,
we turned and looked toward the city.
That made it possible to go on.
Oil wells in corn fields, no kidding.
When I let go of time
my dog entered the creek and swam.

Jim Bodeen
14 July 2010


  1. love the new lead photo, reminds me of smoke and netting in the world of bees. good road poems again.kjm

  2. i love the way through the poem when i am thinking about those stamps and then there it is later in the poem. as for the southern man, well, i have been that guy somewhere in my past, and he's learning just by being there. now for him to hush up. learned on some cooking show today, if you can believe them, hush puppies came from making extra dough bits at the hunting fires and throwing them to the dogs. kjm