Poem #14

Contingency

In the back corner of the fabric shop

they stack the overdyes

– ink heavy bolts of cloth

that are black and stiff

with the layers

of reprinted patterns.

The trick is to sense what’s buried there

and then to take one’s chances,

for sometimes it’s fool’s gold.

I’ve developed a canny eye that probes

beneath the inky smudge, searching

for bits of brightness and bold lines.

I was looking for inspiration

on the shelves of new clean fabric

when I saw that bolt

out of the corner of my eye

and the lime green beneath the black ink cloud

snatched like lightning.

As the roll unfurled upon the counter

– metre after metre of swirling patterns

within the columns overprinted

on the original design –

my excitement grew

into a purchase of ten metres.

After soaking, hosing, washing, rinsing

the fabric again and again, until the water

was no longer a river of ink

the pattern came through,

bold and true,

and it was, indeed, unique.

It hung on the line,

drying into a brighter brilliance.

I sat in the garden,

unthinkingly traced

the dance of the design

onto the back of my eyeball.

Its imprint unfolded like grace

and I set to to make the quilt,

found matching plains and the cutting line

then sewed strip upon strip into place,

interleaving the thin bright bands

in the overdye’s intricate design.

I turned these into blocks,

pinned up a checkerboard

of pieced and unsewn squares,

stood back to squint-size it up

and somewhere between gut and mind,

saw that the blocks must be redefined.

In measured steps

I sliced the squares

into rectangles

to echo Fibonacci’s series,

felt the quilt resound

with a pleasing click,

saw again that our world

is ruled by chance,

and that with a bit of luck

contingency comes

disguised as serendipity,

and a quilt unfolds

to reflect this synchronicity.

contingency

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