If you wonder why six women
pose in black gowns with some relief
of lace or jewel at the neck,
look in their faces: down-turned mouths,
staring eyes. The mothers behind
have fostered the daughters in front.
Fatherhood forgotten, they perch
with black birds at gravesites.
They ride the unsteady roofs
of houses in flood. Their skirts
shelter fears of dust
driven through walls to settle
a pall on clean linen,
grit in the mouth.
A descendant stoops to wipe
dirt from the floor.
Her baby cries. Vapor fills
rooms with their unmistakable
hands, clenching, relaxing.
They have collected buttons and string,
shards of skirts and apron
until their names are sewn crazy
across fields. I have known
six women to spend
hundreds of stitches
on a quilt that went to warm
a tractor in winter.