the museum of americana

a literary review

American Gothic — Poetry by Dana Robbins

 
We found it in a small Maine town,
the softly worn quilt, sewn from strips
of black, red and white.

That was the year we moved
to an old farmhouse, leaving Brooklyn
for this salty city, our promised land.

That’s nineteen thirties, said the dealer,
one hundred fifteen dollars.
We’ll take it, we said, quick and greedy.

When we got it home, we noticed
the tiny pattern of angled crosses
in white on the black fabric.
Swastikas rolled across the bed, like tanks.

Black for the boots of the SS.
Red for the blood of the murdered infants.
White for the snow falling
over the naked Jews of Poland
in the winter of 1943.

Was this quilt stitched by Nazi hands
so in love with their cause that they
swaddled their children in swastikas?

Burn it!

No, the quilt was antique, well crafted,
hand sewn. And perhaps,
they weren’t really swastikas . . .
We decided to keep it.

Folded in a closet, the quilt hissed
poison, You don’t belong here
with your Americana dreams.

Who are you fooling?
you’re just a yid in a lobster bib.

When graffiti was scrawled
in the Jewish graveyard,
the quilt prophesied:
This place you fell in love with,
with its lilac summers,
and silver tree winters,
this New England of Longfellow,
this tranquil place, even here

in this place you love,
you are not safe.

We took the quilt to an expert.
A Log Cabin quilt, she said,
from Victorian underclothes,
at least a hundred years old.
      And that pattern, Hindu, not Nazi.

We donated the quilt to a museum,
where, for the time being,
it has stopped talking.

 

~ ~ ~

boothbayportraitDana Robbins’s poetry has appeared in Drunken Boat, The Rotary Dial, Shemom Magazine, and the OLLI Review. Several of her poems have won awards: “The Apple Tree” received an honorary mention in the Fish Poetry Contest and appears in the 2013 Fish Anthology; “At the End of Day” was the winner of the Musehouse Poem of Hope Contest; “At the Beach” won the 2013 Maine Senior Poet Laureate Contest and is forthcoming in the anthology Golden Words.

Dana holds a M.F.A. from the Stonecoast Writers Program, a B.A. in History from Wellesley College, and a J.D. from Columbia University School of Law. She practiced law mostly miserably and not all that effectively for 28 years until she was able to retire and pursue her true vocation, writing. She lives in Portland, Maine with her husband and her cat.

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