This patchwork quilt of poems by Cynthia Grady, who is a poet, a librarian, and a quilter, includes fourteen poems that describe the lives of enslaved people in America. Each poem is named for a traditional quilt pattern, which also echoes the theme and style of the poem.
For example, this is the poem “Log Cabin.”
“The finds of archaeologists beneath
dilapidated cabins down the hill:
some chicken bones, the skins and skulls of coons
and squirrels – hard remains of suppers stalked
by moonlight, faith, starvation. Caches, too,
of divination: sea shells, broken beads,
and bundled roots suggest how slaves survived
a knotted life of cornmeal, cruelty, death.
The dig won’t yield the stolen, lost, withheld:
shoes, safety, drums, dignity, daughters, sons.”
Other poems include “Anvil” about a blacksmith and “Rail Fence” about slaves who were horse trainers or jockeys. “Wagon Wheel” describes a girl separated from her family, and “Tree of Life” tells of a slave tied to a tree and under the lash. The form of the poems is unrhymed but tightly metered lines of ten syllables apiece, in order to mimic the square shape of a quilt block.
Not all poems are about fear and suffering (although most are); some reflect moments of joy or spirituality.
A vibrant acrylic painting by award winner Michele Wood illustrates each poem. The pictures incorporate the quilt pattern used in the title of the poem.
A school discussion guide is here.
Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2011