Poetry

By Ora Pate Stewart


A Braided Rug to Grace an Earthen Floor

It is a dugout—yes; and it is home.
It will not always be. But must we wait
for beauty, warmth? For comfort, and a rest
for tired feet? This braided rug is where
my children play, I rock my little one,
can do my mending on a rainy day.
O, yes, the rug is rag. Surprising things
are fashioned from such goods—worn, faded, frayed—
Beyond all use, you might say, but for bulk
to stuff a mattress, chink a gaping wall.
The frailest filament may gather strength
among its fellow-strands, enough of them
to give it muscle. Dyed in onion skins,
beet juice, or sagebrush leaves, the fiber, wound
in loose-runged skeins, takes on new gallantry.
With phoenix boldness it will rise again,
bright, coloral to cheer. Restored to life,
it cushions us, lifts us above the floor
of hard-packed earth (we do not call it dirt.
My children pealed the clay to surface it
from dry-wash beds, helped shape and kiln the tiles).
The entrance roof? It’s made of willow boughs
matted to slabs still crusted with their bark,
spread with a gingerbread of friendly earth.
The chimney rises farther up the slope,
above, behind the roof, footed with clay.
It flues the fireplace—which simmers stew,
bakes aromatic loaves from grains we grew.
The children have been good to gather wood.
Their father will be proud when he returns—
his mission to his homeland well fulfilled—
happy and pleased that we have been so blessed
with shelter, and a simple pleasantry—
past want, beyond necessity—yes, more—
This braided rug to grace an earthen floor.
We’ll thank our mentors, mole and meadow mouse,
then quit this cozy hole. A “dobie house”
will rise. Then come and share warm barley mugs
before the hearth upon new braided rugs.

[photo] Photography by Jed A. Clark