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Too Much Give

Poem written by one of the Silent Witness Organizators, Roseann Lloyd, from her book, War Baby Express. Holy Cow! Press. Duluth, MN, 1996.

In yard goods, there's a yardstick nailed down
on the cutting counter, scissors on a string.
Every Ben Franklin is the same, even here
in Two Harbors, a tourist town. The maple floors slant
and give as walk around, scanning
bolts of material lined up, piled up, some askew.
Beautiful colors, neon cottons, waters silks, pastel
jerseys. Today I find black velvet, gorgeous
for a crazy quilt, feather stitched with
lavender and gold. Now I'm fingering some blue cotton stars--
I'll know from the feel if there's too much give
to be of use. I did through the remnant bin, scraps
for baby things, 37 cents. It's automatic, this bargain
hunting, goes back to the days over a dozen years now,
when I walked to town three times a week
with the baby in the stroller,
my life predictable as a clock.

Morning walks, afternoon naps.
5:00, the first glass of French Columbard.
In the spring, bouquets of lilies from the yard.
6:00, cooking dinner. Baby down,
time for quilts, and books, stacks, of books.
Time to wonder if he'll come home, if he'll
want dinner, if he'll be pissed
because dinner wasn't what
he wanted, because... I never got beyond the
because when he started hitting, my fear
held down by the brandy under the sink.
Nothing was better than being a mother.
that's what I said then. I got up every morning
on time, happy to see my baby. The baby
didn't know anything was wrong. That's what I said then,
Iran on schedule, so different from my college
stance--I laugh when I read Ben Franklin's diary, how
he agonized over his daily schedule! Now I
was the one walking to the Ben Franklin
making a schedule work.

That was a long time ago, and here I am
in the Two Harbors Ben Franklin, making an
unscheduled stop. The kids are intently picking out
embroidery thread--purple, kelly green and red.
They're weaving bracelets while riding
in the car. In fact, that's why we stopped,
they ran out of red. I look
across the cottons, see a young woman
holding her baby on her left hip, holding up,
with her right arm, a swatch of cloth with huge red
and white sailboats--red is the best color for
baby quilts--red is the first color they can see.
She's gazing off, imagining a new design.

Everything that happens is supposed to happen:
I'm here today to forgive that girl,
to forgive her for sewing instead of writing,
for staying home when she should've run,
for drinking when she should've
dialed 911. I'm here to forgive her
for making a life of
remnants, for living a life with too much
give. She looks so frail and lonely
over there, the chunky baby laughing on her hip.


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