’60 Songs about Quilting’ acts as a winding archive of the many quilts that have come to pass through the speaker’s hands and memory. Each lyric further crystallizes how they operate singularly and in community. We begin with the speaker never finishing their first quilt because all the others have been used for funerals, and this feels like an active resistance to predestiny. If they never completely pull this textile together, there’s no tangible repository for grief. These community ties seem to be almost supernaturally strong influences, pinging to each other until the only way to drown out the chorus is to evade it altogether. This thread of self-determination continues when they tell us about being groped:
My mother’s boyfriend/my brother’s father, it was a quilt my mother made that had nine diamonds, not the usual eight you find in a star quilt. She tells stories about that quilt and laughs. I only remember the hand forcing me to hold a penis for the first time. The distance between the mother’s joyous recollection of making & housing this quilt vs. the child’s tempered account of violation is palpable. The quilt holds its stature for each, yet the child can name the weight, the unbalanced star seemingly twisting outward until it pricks. When they mention that they’ve never kept a star quilt for themself, it continues the trend of the star not being anything like their reward; it’s a burning that’s always passing from their hands.
When the speaker says that washing before the first use is a “washing away of quilt luck,” it’s a tenuous time where the essences of the creator and the recipient mingle in the same space. To wash early is to dishonor the environment that moved these threads from singularity to a full spectrum. Holes—some that “can be seen, some not”—remind me that these quilts not only press down on the body, but have pockets of breath that hold scent & ghosts. The star quilts replacing the buffalo robes that honored men proves, still, to be an exercise in patience that requires a warm body to give up some of its glory: the buffalo’s shorn of its most identifying feature while the creators lose material and hours (if not days). Yet the recipient isn’t the only one rewarded because each quilt bears the mark of its maker:
Do you honor a man for his greatness by wrapping him in a robe that shows your own greatness? Just as the quilts have different identities depending on the maker or recipient’s stories, the speaker’s identity (outlined in #38–51) also shifts in many lights. Consciously swimming through various pronouncements and traumas, naming that comes from the self and outside, draws us to see the human and the quilt in needed multiplicities.