THE MOTORCYCLE WITH THE RED FENDER
AND BLACK SADDLE BAGS MADE OF FLANNEL
Before the AIDS Quilt at Navy Pier, Chicago
They photographed quilts they had brought
to share. They had laid them out on the floor
in the living room. And in the Indiana Museum,
they had done the same. The Vine Quilt
with its colorful patchwork leaves.
And the Rainbow Quilt hung
in the modern art gallery.
Marie Webster's linen and cotton appliquéd
on cotton from 1920. The quilter
who wrote the first history of quilting.
Then the sky fell. Quilting would no longer
be on your grandmother's bed.
Donna Stader laid a blue cotton slash
across the top and it became the falling sky.
Family history would never be the same.
Silent with each other with time,
they walked the Pier in Chicago
without purpose, finding themselves
face to face with the AIDS quilt
on Pride Day in all of America's
major cities. The wall-sized
block of Sotomayor, Front page
AIDS numbers unfound
by grandma and grandpa
in the newspaper, Squares
of the fallen beneath the cartoon.
Never again. Daniel 1958-1992.
Act up Chicago. Cure the System,
Fight for the living, bordering
the waterfront: We're all living with AIDS.
And the young woman appearing
before in shiny satin rainbow cape,
on this side of the rail,
before the basketball jersey
of Stephen J. Gibson.
She turns towards me,
for the camera, in her rainbow tshirt,
smiling, holding up the cape,
fresh from the parade.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt photos by Lisa Howe-Ebright
from the 1988 installation intersperse themselves
between quilt blocks. We see the first quilt blocks
on the pier floor, with the first viewers
walking in witness.
My friends post images of the Parade
from San Francisco, and Seattle.
Happy Pride Day. Facebook.
Worth sharing again.
Minneapolis' Loring Park.
.45 records cut into black circles
with red and blue labels, quilt square
originals, with the hand-written notes
of personal loss. Hand writing
forever witnessing. The word,
Remember, over and over,
remembering in new ways:
We remember all those lost to AIDS
who had no one to memorialize them.
The names over and over.
T. Charles Steward, Michael Bennett,
names with images of vocation,
Chuck Lund in his chef hat,
the restaurant where he did his cooking.
The dates of shortened lives:
8/30/60-11/4/94. Marc Sawyer.
A gold ring and a red ribbon.
You don't have to be infected
to be affected. The colors
of the rainbow in the letters.
Quilt patches as tombstones.
So many images of music.
So many musicians.
Not just sons and daughters,
your grandpa, too.
AFTER PHOTOGRAPHING QUILTS
AT THE INDIANA REUNION
Cajun prawns and lemonade
walking Navy Pier in Chicago.
An afternoon away from the car.
The woman saw that book in my hand.
Walk without talking?
I'd never get anywhere!
Each stop with the eye
is another step. I'm looking
into the AIDS quilt, hung on the pier
in 15 blocks crafted from 48,000
individual panels, each remembering
someone who has died of AIDS--
largest community art project
in the world. Each cloth panel a thread.
Here's a house with an open window,
curtains lifted by a quilter's breeze.
The title of the book that stopped
that woman: How to Walk.
I'm supposed to be paying attention.
I got here by walking with the quilter.
26 June 2016s
Karen and Jim Bodeen