The Dream of Twenty Black Women

There are twenty black women all sitting in
a circle inside of my head, elderly black women
all in bonnets, sitting in a circle having a
quilting party. One sits in the canopy-bridge
of my nose, two sit separately by the bay windows of my
leaded glass eyes occasionally peering out
unconcerned at the world, four sit in the
parlors of my ears and trade secret smiles
woven from quiet threads of gossip
The others, the thirteen remain seated
quietly in a semicircle around my neck
under the half-moon of my cranium, sewing by its light,
sighing quietly under its light.
Goose down fountains up from my throat, billowing
the patchwork quilt, filling the patchwork quilt.
Country barn red patterns with wheat gold threads
Old black hands shiny with oil, fingers long like
the appendages of spiders, all working in a
network along my brain
Twenty black women, all in ruffled white bonnets
in a circle with downcast eyes, all quiet
all down-in-the-valley with Lord High Hopes
Taking material from my childhood, cleanly washed
rags of memory, trimming their frayed edges
and sewing the clean square edges into the
patchwork quilt
Each has a movement, each diamond cut piece of cloth
a movement of sleep, a pattern
of memory
with the gauze of age knit over them.
Even when I sleep
I can hear the small, very small threaded needles
slipping through the quilt
expanding the quilt
And I can hear twenty black women
all in white bonnets
smiling.