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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Poem: Meditations in the stitches of a baby quilt

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Meditations in the stitches of a baby quilt


“Pins and needles” tingle
in my fingers
while I push
a tiny needle
through calico
in a quilt for my
unborn grandson.

Years on computer keys
and the bands over nerves
in my wrists
tightened
like a swaddling blanket
too snug: carpal tunnel. However,

my forearms are mighty,
said the chiropractor.
Like the pen.

But not my hands. Knitters fly,
their needles flapping wool sleeves
like the startled wings of pigeons.
I can’t fly that way.

The baby who will squirm
in this quilt will be startled
and cry. Right here in this quilt,
and it will likely be me
who will one day alarm him
with inadvertent
painful surprise
to us both
and I, too, will cry.

This baby will understand
much. He will surprise me
with the utterly
new and completely ordinary
all his own.

My aching hands will pick
him up, worrying
that I could drop him
in a terrifying
moment of weakness. Causing
pain

like when my son
two days old felt the poke
of a needle into his heel
in a bilirubin test
poor jaundiced boy, intentionally
bled for the good of the whole.
I had to escape
to the soft hall
to muffle his cry through the door

like feeling the needle poke
through these cotton layers to find
my left middle finger
on the other side!

Nice name for a boy, bilirubin: Billy Reuben.
Grandpa Reuben. O happy bouncing
knees of old time me. I did not understand
the pain of losing his gabardine lap
in one stroke. Sad, shiny wheel chair.
Downturned moustache.

I’ll wheel him around, this one
before he can walk. Happy
prospect: You will walk.

I have one life to give you.

And you will run it through
in the meadow like
this tiny needle through calico —
     goldenrod, Timothy grass, thistle.


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42 comments:

Ruth said...

Grandpa Reuben is the only grandparent I met, a stellar man of great kindness, grace and humor. I had just a couple of times on his lap, which are among the happiest memories of my life. Holding this quilt in my lap, imagining Poppy Seed inside it, I also feel myself on Grandpa Reuben's lap.

Maureen said...

So beautiful a poem, a gift to your grandchild. And what a lovely link you make to your grandfather.

hedgewitch said...

Grandparents, and grandchildren, are the greatest gift, free of so much of the baggage our other loves, other lives carry. A lovely poem, Ruth, and a meditation that never ends on why pain is wrapped up in everything in this life. One has to imagine it has some purpose. Love, we know has one.

JeannetteLS said...

I think this poem should be in any publication for grandmothers... It says so much. So full of love.

I have to print it to leave for my best friend, who sometimes has put everything aside for the sake of her grandson, who anticipated both grandsons' births with this kind of intensity, this kind of love.

Have a beautiful week.

Grandmother said...

It's like you're stitching these two males together, grandpa and grandson. Are you the woman in Wyspianski's painting? Your fingers tingling while your forearms grow mighty to fore-arm him. He will walk. You will give your life. William Reuben, your ancestors existed to produce you.

missing moments said...

Beautiful beautiful and beautiful! I love the image you used.

jen revved said...

A lovely, arcing, singing poem, Ruth-- this will stay in my heart's cache. xxxj

Babs-beetle said...

That is a beautiful poem - and I absolutely LOVE the photo!

Ginnie said...

I suddenly have tears in my eyes, Ruth, reading this. Tears of joy and anticipation for you to be the grandmother you have longed to be for so long. That little boy is already leaping for joy in the meadow of his mommy's tummy, waiting for the day when he will jump into your arms! Little does he know what's in store for him....

Friko said...

Tender and loving, the musings of a grandma to be while stitching delicately at a wrap to enfold a new life.

Aching fingers remembering other lives and weaving them into the work, the whole a rich tapestry of stitches that make up the blood and bone of the life yet to be born.

So much love, all waiting to spill out and envelop the next bead in this chain of family.

steven said...

it's cool to be along for the tiny pains and little joys that draw the boundaries of the sweetly stiched-togetherness of a place for the ripening poppy seed to be born into the echoes of his ancestors and the full-presence of his family. steven

Vagabonde said...

What a lovely poem full of love and grace. You write so beautifully.

George said...

Teach your grandson that there is nothing inconsistent with something being "utterly new and completely ordinary," and you will have given him one the keys the happiness.

erin said...

oh! tied up in the end directly through my heart, all life, the young, the old, the aging,the new, tied through, all of us, this quilt. gorgeous. gorgeous, ruth.

xo
erin

Barb said...

The "web" of Life: soon there will be a new dancer to master the old steps and create new ones. Your photo and the poem both tell of fragile connections. Lovely, Ruth!

ds said...

How delicate the photo, how delicate the stitchery that makes the quilt, but how strong it will be, like the forearms that will catch this baby and swing him and teach him of Grandpa Reuben, and other pieces in his genetic quilt, and of poetry and wild things and art, and how tiny drops of water on a spider web look like pearls...
Lucky, lucky boy.
Beautiful, beautiful poem. Thank you.

amy@ Souldipper said...

Imagine this wee baby boy, suddenly a man, quietly reading this love poem to his new grandchild swaddled in its great-great-grandma's calico. His hands will ache just a little - a conspiracy of DNA.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Maureen. I realize I'm learning to grandparent partly from Grandpa, a man I barely knew. When you remember the right moments, you don't need many.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Hedge. Yes, I think love's purpose is the clearest I've seen it now. As my sister Dee Dee said to me Sunday about her own grandchildren, "It's just love, unfiltered by responsibility."

Ruth said...

JeannetteLS, thank you for the honor of that thought. This feels like motherhood times a hundred. At least. I can leave all the tough decisions to his parents! So it's just love.

You have a beautiful week, too!

Ruth said...

Mary, thank you, what a lovely way to see it, stitching the two of them together here in my lap. Laps are profoundly wonderful things God created. I think William Reuben is a lovely name. Isn't Billy Reuben cute though? I don't think Lesley and Brian will buy it, but I may just have to call Poppy Seed that. My grandfather (step grandfather actually, but he was my biological grandfather's double first cousin, imagine, and he adopted my mother, quite wonderfully) was actually Reuben Reuel. I have no idea where the Reuel comes from. But I've always loved the name Reuben, no doubt because of the man.

Ruth said...

Thanks, thanks and thanks, Reena! I'm glad you like the image, which was in the meadow during our annual spiderweb festival a couple years ago. I saw fairies tightroping!

Ruth said...

Thanks so much, Jenné, for tripping along with me through these meditative snippets.

Shari Sunday said...

I had to read it a couple of times to follow your stream of consciousness. Interesting how our mind turns when our hands are busy. I have never made a quilt, but I can imagine stitching it and almost feeling the warm, squirming weight inside. I hope you will share a picture of the quilt someday, maybe wrapped around the baby.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Babs! I remember the morning I gathered spiderweb photos a couple of Septembers ago, it was like a fairyland!

Ruth said...

Boots! Thank you for sharing my joy and for such a lovely comment. And he really is leaping in his mommy's tummy! :-)

Ruth said...

Friko, thank you for reading, and responding so well. The mystery unfolds. There is so much in each of us. Then combine them, mix well, and who knows what concoctions will result!

Ruth said...

Steven, thanks for witnessing my joy, and pains.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Vagabonde. This poem is an odd rambler, streaming from one thought to another. But it felt like a haphazard fountain that had to be allowed to spring up as it would. Thank you for finding it beautiful.

Ruth said...

George, it is delightful to share that key with you, and to anticipate its future unlockings with Poppy Seed. Thank you, my friend.

Ruth said...

Thank you, erin. My mind usually works as this poem does: flitting from one thought to the next. Maybe it's rounding things up to be ridden in a caravan, and that's all right, I suppose.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Barb! As a gramma-to-be, I feel more conscious of the fragility than I did as only a mama.

Ruth said...

ds, I thank you for warmly responding to the strength of the quilt, its warmth, the way of the wild, and how much I desire to purvey these things for Poppy Seed.

Ruth said...

Ohh, Amy, you gave me good chills, and a thrill. Imagine that! Thank you so much.

Ruth said...

Shari, thanks for reading and rereading. It is a rather odd poem, and can feel disjointed if you're not me. :-)

I will share images from the quilt after I've given it to Lesley, and one day with Poppy Seed inside. How I look forward to that! (I guess that's obvious.)

Loring Wirbel said...

All is full of love these days, this poem reflects it.

Oliag said...

This makes me feel as warm as being wrapped up in a quilt of love:)

cathyswatercolors said...

Hi Ruth, sorry i haven't been on the computer that much. It's all i can do to get over colds, and minor health issues AND school. I had to comment on your beautiful poem for your grandson. All the while, as i read it, i could invsion you slowly sewing your quilt. The poem was engrossing and written with your usual love and intellegence. Just lovely... baby due in spring? My grandbaby is due in May. I guess i better start sewing. You've inspired me.

Dutchbaby said...

Beautiful musings spanning generations of warmth and embrace. I can't wait to see the quilt.

Brendan said...

These "poppy seed poems" -- letters to an grandson ought -- to go into a chapbook ... the conversation grows with the child in the womb. How to teach about pain, especially pain that is worth it, has an abundance, a magnitude ... Birth is painful, bilirubin tests are painful, walking is painful: but o what joy to come running through the far fields! - Brendan

Christine said...

Oh,,, the fears, anxieties and love as one watches a small one encounter the world - sometimes painfully. As others noted I liked the way you linked generations through your sewing this rug for your new grandson. I have just become a grandmother ( the step variety, but a grandmother, nevertheless) and love this little boy who has come into my world.

Jeanie said...

I am dearly loving each and every post of this journey, but perhaps none more than this. One day, too, I will read this again and have those same feelings as I stitch my own baby quilt for one yet to be imagined. How I will love it!