Way Back in Weyahutta
Every yard blooms a fine Rose
of Sharon, mere shadow
of Delphia’s embroidery floss
stitching her way around
all the rough edges.
So began a poem years ago celebrating the "pretties" blooming in the yards of mountain women who lived in the section called Weyahutta, or "Worryhut", just off the Tuckasegee River. The woman mentioned in it, Delphia Potts, has become in my imagination a guiding spirit, one of those "prophetesses" that Emma Bell Miles writes about in her classic book, The Spirit of the Mountains. Her daughters Annie Lee and Willa Mae became two of my dearest friends, and they too are among my guiding spirits. Annie Lee's daughter Norma Bryson sat in my first freshman composition class at Western Carolina University. I will be writing more about this lineage later. All three women were excellent seamstresses; their needles did indeed stitch their way around many rough edges. This website will honor them and their indomitable "spirit of the mountains." Here is an excerpt from my poem "Mountain Time," in which Delphia sets us straight about the work we are called to do, no matter how difficult the circumstances, how crazy the world around us becomes.
From "Mountain Time"
All roads seem to lead
to Millennium, dark roads with drop-offs
we can't plumb. It's time to be brought up short
now with the tale-tellers' Listen: There once lived
a woman named Delphia
who walked through these hills teaching children
to read. She was known as a quilter
whose hand never wearied, a mother
who raised up two daughters to pass on
her words like a strong chain of stitches.
Imagine her sitting among us,
her quick thimble moving along these lines
as if to hear every word striking true
as the stab of her needle through calico.
While prophets discourse about endings,
don't you think she'd tell us the world as we know it
keeps calling us back to beginnings?
This labor to make our words matter
is what any good quilter teaches.
A stitch in time, let's say.
A blind stitch
that clings to the edges
of what's left, the ripped
scraps and remnants, whatever
won't stop taking shape even though the whole
crazy quilt's falling to pieces.
from BLACK SHAWL, LSU Press, 1998