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March 15, 2023

We Bury Ours in Patchwork

Monique Quintana

Rae sewed a portraiture of Marco, a scene of him coughing in the greenhouse amongst the pots as he thumbed their roots in jubilation. She ran out of green thread, so she sewed the leaves white on a grey patch. Marco's face in that textile cloud patch was misshapen but finally deserving of her love. His boots were made of the thickest red thread in her box. She tapped in the red with her fingertips and pretended that would make it smell like cowhide. She pulled the line out and let it dangle, looking like fringe on his boots. Those were the best boots she would ever see, worthy of this sick prince, her favorite cousin forever remembered in the clutch of a blanket.

When she was a small girl, Rae used the blanket to record ailments that passed through her family, but now she also used it to document souls that passed through the house. She realized that they all became a part of her family and would all be linked together through the drywall, the iron scaffolds they used to build this house, and the lines of the wallpaper that would come to recognize their faces and heave one step closer to fulfillment. This living house, this living blanket, would catch the dust of all their lungs and eat it for daily meals.

Rae modeled the blanket after television documentaries she saw about the English countryside. She envied those perfectly lined irrigation patches and how green they were, like artificial rocks in the pet stores' aquariums. She'd often record those documentaries and pressed pause on the patchwork scenes to sketch the patterns. She swore up and down to her cousins that her eyesight was so good that she could spot vegetables growing out of them. Her cousins called her a liar because those documentaries were filmed from planes, too far away for her to make out tangible details. But she swore she saw them and made her best attempt to sew in carrots, snap peas, and sweet potatoes into the seams of her blanket.

The patches on her blanket were at best lopsided, a failure to duplicate the precision of those far-off countryside squares. But her family ailed and sometimes died in those seams. Her grandmother Petra's left arm craned over a square as if swimming over a miserable sea, her thick dark hair bobbing over, a loose thread for an eyebrow wanting to be seen. Swim in this blanket like you still have words to speak, Rae said under her breath. And when she said those words, she could feel her cousins taking pause in the doorway, round and narrow boot toes, holding their breath, not laughing, but their eyes mocking their most miniature cousin and her imagination. She knew that in all kindness, they wished her a pang of good guilt for prolonging grief, but she got what she got, not beauty but an archive that she felt worthy enough to keep going and lasting as long as her family fell down and still or shaking.

Rae nearly fell into shock and slumber herself when her cousins suggested that she drape the blanket over Marco's body as he slept. They said it might have healing powers and bring him out of sleep. Rae knew better than that. Don't take too much stock in the things we make. This is an archive and nothing more than that, she said. The blanket was folded over and into the sewing box until Marco left this planet or someone else fell ill. Rae waited, but not in anticipation, the rains streaking her window curtain at night. She washed the stains away in futility.


MONIQUE QUINTANA is a Xicana from Fresno, CA, and is the author of Cenote City (Clash Books, 2019). Her work has been published in Wildness, Lost Balloon, Okay Donkey, and The Acentos Review, among others. Her work has also been supported by Yaddo, The Sundress Academy for the Arts, The Community of Writers, and The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center. She was the inaugural winner of Amplify's Writer of Color Fellowship and is a contributing editor at Luna Luna Magazine, where she writes book reviews, artist interviews, and personal essays. You can find her at Twitter and Instagram : @quintanagothic

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