THIRD PLACE (THE WELKIN WRITING PRIZE 2023)
The Wedding Quilt
by Susan T. Landry
A rectangle of fabric shows a child-like drawing of a fish; when I say child-like, I mean the fish is smiling, and its eyes reflect happiness. When I say child-like, I mean my child.
Another piece of fabric has a simple design repeat, two slender ovals that lean toward each other, flower petals perhaps, or a Chinese dumpling. And when I say dumpling, I mean my child. When he was born, his eyelids crinkled into delicate folds.
I am sewing a quilt and when I say I am sewing, it is the way I do everything: it is the needle pricks and the splashes of blood. It is the lost scissors and the misplaced pins. It is the measurements, checking over and over. And again. The measurements that were right today will be wrong tomorrow.
Red-and-white droplets wriggle across a stream of orange fabric. They look like tadpoles or like spermatozoa. The father of my child will be at the wedding. He and I and our son will be who we used to be and who we are now.
I will yearn to remove my shoes, to cool my feet in an orange river.
I do not believe in astrology, but I will point out that the primary color in the wedding quilt is blue: fishing boat blue, cobalt blue, and ebony blue, black enough for drowning. My son and I pay no attention to horoscopes. We are both water signs, he swims well, but I am scared if I cannot see the bottom.
The quilt I am sewing is not perfect but it has beauty. And when I say it has beauty, I mean it was made with love. And by love, I mean this: I made it for my son and his wife.
When I said the quilt was not perfect, I meant to say that it is I who is not perfect. The new husband and wife are not perfect; but they have love and they have beauty. By that, I mean they have each other. They have a marriage.
Susan T. Landry is founder and editor of the online literary journal, Run to the Roundhouse, Nellie (2012-2015) and editor of the print journal Lifeboat: A Journal of Memoir (2001-2003). Her poems have been published in the print journal Little Star, on several online venues, and included in the book Balancing Act 2: An Anthology of Poems by 50 Maine Women. Her short-form memoir has appeared in several online journals, including Brevity and Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood. She also writes fiction, most recently published in the debut issue of Sixpence Society Literary Journal.
When I launched this competition, I was keen to embrace narrative fiction in all its forms, and I was therefore delighted to discover this piece which has such a poetic sensibility about it. I love the repeating motifs, the attention to rhythm, the rich images created from one sentence to the next. The language is brought to the page in such a beautiful manner but it is always in service to the story; the patchwork of this family through time. Each time I reached the end, I found myself smiling. To quote the piece itself, I might say it has been “made with love.”