Every now and then I am moved to pen a few lines of poetry. I certainly don’t view myself as a poet, but there have been distinct moments when I feel the urge come over me! This happened a few months ago, while deeply immersed in the doctoral process. My parents have both been supportive of my process of trying to make sense of our roots. On this occasion my mother had been eagerly awaiting my visit so that she could give me two doilies that my paternal grandmother had crocheted for her many years ago (my grandmother died more than twenty years ago). My grandmother had crocheted to supplement her income and had skillfully produced not only doilies but bedspreads with an impossibly thin crochet hook and fine cotton thread.
I remember my mother having different sets of doilies for different occasions; they would be starched and ironed so that they stiffly maintained their shapes. There was something very poignant about the plastic bag she handed to me and the way the unstarched doilies softly fell out into my lap. This is my tribute to my grandmother.
My Grandmother’s Dream Catchers
Mama made these doilies for me, my mother says,
as green and blue tightly crocheted
works of art fall softly
out of the plastic packet she’s kept them in.
I see my grandmother sitting
in her chair, grey hair escaping
from under a white cotton scarf
wrapped around her head;
her fingers hold the thin steel hook
wrapping cotton thread in elaborate patterns,
making poor man’s lace,
creating circles in the air to catch bad dreams.
Her hands are never idle, weaving and spinning
a livelihood to keep her family together,
her work good enough
for even white people, my father says,
the patterns out of a secret book in her head
dipped in starch and ironed to attention.
Round and round she goes
weaving circles of where she came from,
each stitch a link to the past,
a chain from Arab trade routes to Africa,
interlocking loops of yarn,
tiny stitches helping to feed her family.
I wish I had followed that thread
of journeys across oceans,
wish that I had asked her to teach me
how to catch dreams.