Saturday, July 2, 2011


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


  1. A fine beginning to your new blog, Kay! We have to keep stitching and mending and creating beauty in the midst of seeming chaos.

  2. I'm a recent (15 year) transplant, but the stitches and stitchers you describe have a presence in other places--praise be. Why does it seem to fall to women so often to notice and to strive for what needs most to be protected?

  3. Vicki, being a quilter yourself, you know what I'm talking about.
    Joan, your question resonates beyond these hills. Might you be willing to take on a blog post about it?

  4. Wow! The poem brings the tears and the imagery is incredible. What a beginning to your blog!