My Mother's Pieced Quilts

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  • 7/29/2019 My Mother's Pieced Quilts


    My Mothers Pieced Quilts

    Poem SummaryLines 14Acosta begins the poem at the most literal level, introducing the quilts and howthey were used: for warmth against winter chill. Using a metaphor, she describesthe quilts as weapons against pounding January winds, perhaps the way ayoung child would imagine them during the coldest of winter nights.

    Lines 57Here the speaker of the poem explains the daily routine of waking up as a childunder the colorful quilts. By describing them as October ripened, Acosta might

    be referring to those colors most associated with autumnred, brown, andorange. The speaker begins to remember how the cloth felt under hand; thesense of touch is one of the strongest triggers for memory. Note the word facesto describe the individual frames of cloth, the speaker is beginning to personify,or give life to, the inanimate quilt.

    Lines 812Once the speaker of the poem remembers touching the covers, she alsoremembers wondering how the mother was able to make the quilt, a single fabricwoven of many smaller pieces. These loose strips of fabric came from manydifferent sources, each with its own nostalgic significance communion dresses,

    wedding gowns, nightclothes and dime store velvets. On a literal level, the quiltis sewn together from these many separate strips. Metaphorically, the speaker ofthe poem begins to suggest that the memories of those events are woven into thefabric as well.

    Lines 1315Lines 1315 focus on the difficult process the mother took trying to take manymismatched and oddly shaped pieces and arrange them in a coherent pattern,much like a puzzle. Note the way the poems speaker describes how the motherpositioned / balanced each piece, and Acosta herself uses one-word lines likeindividual pieces constructing a longer sentence, each line balanced atop the


    Lines 1619Once the pieces were arranged, the mother wove them together with needle andthread, a thimble over her finger to avoid sticking herself. The verb-choicecemented perhaps adds a sense of permanence to the image that another,weaker, verb would not have.

    Lines 2022

  • 7/29/2019 My Mother's Pieced Quilts


    Here the speaker focuses the details even further until the reader can see theindividual thread being woven, the needles action reminding the speaker of ahorse galloping. By remembering how the loose edges of fabric were tucked inby the mothers careful needle, the speaker also remembers how the motherwould tuck in the kids before bed.

    Lines 2326Lines 2326 return to specific descriptions of the individual fabric pieces, themother working hard to make them fit together. Every scrap seems to tell its ownstory, from curtains in a house in Michigan, to a Santa fe work shirt. Each pieceeven reminds the speaker of the season he or she wore them. By relating theseassociations, the speaker might be commenting on how memory itself is piecedtogether, ragged scraps arranged together.

    Lines 2730Here the mother is compared to a painter at a canvas, using the square patternsof the kitchen floor as a model. For the first time the reader sees the speaker as a

    child lounging on the mothers arm, watching the slow weaving. The youngchild is perhaps too young to sew, but the mother is still instructing him or her,staking out the plan. This scenes example perhaps emphasizes the importanceof mother-daughter bonding from the poets own childhood.

    Lines 3132With so many scraps of fabric to choose from, the mother had to decide not onlywhat colors might fit well together, but the seasons and events with which eachpiece is associated as well. The Easter purple might clash with the red plaid, butthe holiday fits well with the winter-going-into-spring season, for example.

    Lines 3334In each square of fabric, it seems, the mother would even paint tiny scenes, thequilt a combination of many colors and shapes. Corpus Christi is Latin forbody of Christ; the Roman Catholic holy day of Corpus Christi occurs in lateMay or early June, several weeks after Easter. The mother has to decide whetherto include a patch in honor of some occasion associated with that time of yearperhaps her wedding day. (The stress being placed on a simple eventmyfather held your handsuggests that it has some greater significance; thegesture, the time of year, and the religious associations all subtly imply amarriage ceremony.)

    Lines 3536In contrast to the fairly pleasant memories introduced thus far, in these lines themother has to decide whether to include a scrap of a funeral dress in the quilt aswell, shaping it into a black star. By mentioning the good memories as well as thepainful, perhaps the speaker is reminding the reader that all memory andexperience is a combined weaving of lights and darks, good times and bad.

    Lines 3740

  • 7/29/2019 My Mother's Pieced Quilts


    Here the speaker moves from close description of the quilting process to morefigurative language, helping lift the mother from her everyday hobby tosomething greater. The speaker calls the mother the river current, comparingher to a great force of nature able to shape mountains and valleys with its roaringwater. Note, too, how the previous scenes that the mother sewed, though fairly

    simple in construction, are now quite intricate and difficult to craft: a boyreclining, a flying swallow. This implies the mother was very good at what shedid, spending many hours perfecting her art.

    Lines 4145Continuing to invent analogies for the mother, in these lines the speakerdescribes her as the master of an army of needles, charging across the clothbattlefield with her hands at the reins. Images like this perhaps help give power toa woman who really just made quilts in her kitchen, perhaps looked upon bymany as just a simple hobby. To the child who grew up to be the speaker of thepoem, though, this was a wonderful and important task, equal to that of mastersand generals. A mosaic, as mentioned

    My Mother Pieced Quilts

    The poem, My Mother Pieced Quilts, by Teresa Palomo Acosta, focuseson the mothers talent for weaving memories out of old fabric that is otherwiseuseless. The cloth has come from many different sources, each with its ownnostalgic significance-communion dresses, wedding gowns, nightclothes, anddime store velvets (Acosta, My Mother Pieced Quilts, Exploring Poetry,Explanation). Each loose strip of fabric reminds the narrator of her childhoodmemories-the good ones and the bad.

    They were just meant as covers (line 1) says the narrator. However, theOctober ripened canvases (line 6) that the narrator awoke to each morningmeant much more than a simple blanket to ward off chill, but instead, ascrapbook of the past. The speaker watches as the mother compiles thisscrapbook of fabrics that have outlived their usefulness. By recalling how theloose edges of cloth were tucked in by the mothers needle, the speaker alsoremembers how the mother would tuck in the kids at bedtime (lines 21-22).

    Each scrap seems to tell its own story, from curtains in a house inMichigan to a Santa Fe workshirt (line 25). All of the pieces remind the speakerof a time, place or season in which they were used. By relating theseassociations, the speaker is commenting on how memory itself is pieced togetherlike ragged scraps (My Mother Pieced Quilts, Explanation).

  • 7/29/2019 My Mother's Pieced Quilts


    The poem continues to identify the good memories that the mother causesby shaping together the pieces of fabric until it speaks of the black funeral dress(lines 35-36). The mother wore this somber black silk to her mothers funeral andincludes a star-shaped scrap of it in one of her quilts. By mentioning the goodmemories as well as the painful, the speaker is reminding us that all memoriesand experiences are combined of lights and darks, good times and bad (Acosta,My Mother Pieced Quilts, Exploring Poetry, Explanation).

    Near the end of the poem the speaker is overflowing with emotion at all ofthe painful and joyous memories that the mother evokes with her quilts. In thesame way that the mother has sewn her quilts tightly to withstand the thrashingsof twenty-five years, (line 51) the mother has also raised her children to bestrong and to go through life without being worn down by the hard times. In the

    last lines we discover what is holding all of these marvelous quilts together: love(My Mother Pieced Quilts, Explanation). Evidently, the entire poem was ametaphor in which it compared a quilt made of a hodgepodge of fabric scraps tothe memories of a lifetime. As this poem says in the very last line, the quilts singon, which means that the blankets still tell the tales of the speakers existence tothis day.


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