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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 10: October 2021
Poem: 419 words
By Ellaraine Lockie

Small Town New York City

 
A city can be a patchwork of small towns 
Like a quilt handed down from a prairie grandma 
Each square a neighborhood as independent 
as a tiny Montana farm town 
hemmed by 50 miles of grass fields and crops 
In NYC that hem is the thread of one street 
that separates each brownstone neighborhood 
Every square pieced with basic essentials 

Like the corner bodega, lifeblood of the city that serves 
convenience of food, household supplies and camaraderie 
Counterparts to the mom & pop grocery 
on the Montana Main Street 
where credit stretches in the way of an elastic braid 

Likewise where NYC’s East Village proprietor 
of the Essex Card Store tells the stranger who forgot her money 
You can come back to pay tomorrow; I trust you 
Trust is big enough on this quilt to cover a king-sized bed 

Safety weaves its protective net over each locale 
Chain-stitches neighbors together in watch guards 
The NYC street signs in red iridescent thread 
that read Your Business is Our Business 
could be small-town Montana’s mantra 

The designer umbrella standing on its head remains 
unclaimed in an East Village P.O. foyer for two weeks 
By the sidewalk on the next street 
cardboard refrigerator boxes turn into bedrooms 
In small-town Montana people don’t lock their doors 
They wear security on their shoulders like an appliquéd patch 

Tourists soften from the touch of silky kindness 
when a kid on the West Village street gives directions 
Minutes later runs up out of breath 
Says I’m sorry, it’s the opposite way 
And you can’t unfold a map on the NYC subway 
without someone asking if you need help 
In Montana a stray stranger is likely to receive an invitation 
for coffee in the soft down filling of a home 

Farm-town faces wear muslin bleached a European white 
Ancestors who suffered similar persecution 
starvation or lack of land as New York immigrants 
Whose fabrics in beige, brown, yellow, red 
and black form their faces 

No needs of body, soul, home or transport 
go unmet on these quilted blocks 
Except for perhaps clandestine purposes 
Like the Chelsea woman who subways 
to Caffe Reggio in Greenwich Village so no one 
she knows will see her reading Fifty Shades of Grey 
Or the rural husband who has a hankering for basted 
stitching outside of backstitched vows 

And then there’s NYC’s F Train sign cross-stitched 
in letters that fill an entire quilt square 
Cheat on your neighborhood with other neighborhoods 

 

 

Publisher’s Note:

This wonderful poem inspired me to reach out to eminent quilting artist Michael A. Cummings, who lives and creates in the Sugar Hill neighborhood of New York City. To my delight, he kindly granted permission to include images of three of his quilts here in MacQ. My gratitude to both artists!

Ellaraine Lockie
Issue 10, October 2021

is a widely published and awarded poet, nonfiction book author, essayist, and visual artist. Recent poems have won Oprelle Publishing’s Master’s Contest, the 2019 Poetry Super Highway Contest, the Nebraska Writers Guild’s Women of the Fur Trade Poetry Contest, New Millennium’s Monthly Musepaper Poetry Contest, and First Place in the Artists Embassy International Dancing Poetry Contest.

Her newest poetry book is the coauthored Trio: Poetrylandia 4 (Wapshott Press, 2020). Sex and Other Slapsticks (Presa Press, 2019) is her 14th chapbook. Earlier collections have won Poetry Forum’s Chapbook Contest Prize, San Gabriel Valley Poetry Festival Chapbook Competition, Encircle Publications Chapbook Contest, Best Individual Poetry Collection Award from Purple Patch magazine in England, and the Aurorean’s Chapbook Choice Award.

Her poems have found their way onto broadsides, buses, rented cars, bicycles, cabins, greeting cards, key chains, bookmarks, mugs, coffee-sack labels, church bulletins, radio shows, and cable TV, as well as into hundreds of national and international journals, magazines, and anthologies.

Ellaraine has been awarded multiple residencies and fellowships from both Centrum and Summer Literary Seminars, and thirty of her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She also teaches writing workshops, frequently judges poetry contests, and serves as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine Lilipoh.

Her pollages, which combine handmade papermaking, poetry, and collage, have appeared in juried art shows around the country and have been the subject of a one-woman gallery art show and several online essays and interviews. They also exist in several private art collections and have appeared in: The Centrifugal Eye, Rio Grande Review, Homestead Review, Sein Und Werden (England), Prairie Connection, Ascent Aspirations, and Alchemy. Ellaraine’s book The Gourmet Paper Maker (how to make paper with the inedible parts of fruits and vegetables) is published in six languages.

See also her page at Book That Poet:
https://www.bookthatpoet.com/poets/lockieel.html

 
 
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