Time and Reflection: Behind Her Gaze

Background-mapping draws the wide and slim, the acknowledged and not known earlier to the existing. All through my residency at the Aminah Robinson household, I examined the impulses driving my prose poem “Blood on a Blackberry” and observed a kinship with the textile artist and author who designed her household a resourceful safe and sound house. I crafted narratives via a mixed media software of vintage buttons, antique laces and fabrics, and textual content on fabric-like paper. The starting up level for “Blood on a Blackberry” and the writing throughout this task was a photograph taken a lot more than a century in the past that I identified in a spouse and children album. A few generations of ancestral mothers held their bodies even now exterior of what looked like a badly-designed cabin. What struck me was their gaze.

3 generations of ladies in Virginia. Photograph from the writer’s relatives album. Museum artwork communicate “Time and Reflection: Guiding Her Gaze.”

What views hid at the rear of their deep penetrating seems? Their bodies prompt a permanence in the Virginia landscape around them. I understood the names of the ancestor moms, but I understood minimal of their life. What ended up their insider secrets? What tunes did they sing? What needs sat in their hearts? Stirred their hearts? What have been the night appears and working day appears they heard? I desired to know their ideas about the environment about them. What frightened them? How did they chat when sitting down with mates? What did they confess? How did they communicate to strangers? What did they conceal? What was girlhood like? Womanhood? These queries led me to producing that explored how they will have to have felt.

Investigation was not adequate to convey them to me. Recorded general public background frequently distorted or omitted the tales of these women, so my historical past-mapping relied on recollections connected with thoughts. Toni Morrison identified as memory “the deliberate act of remembering, a kind of willed creation – to dwell on the way it appeared and why it appeared in a distinct way.” The act of remembering via poetic language and collage assisted me to much better recognize these ancestor moms and give them their say.

Photos of the artist and visible texts of ancestor mothers hanging in studio at Aminah Robinson house.

Working in Aminah Robinson’s studio, I traveled the line that carries my spouse and children history and my imaginative composing crossed new boundaries. The texts I designed reimagined “Blood on a Blackberry” in hand-reduce shapes drawn from traditions of Black women’s stitchwork. As I minimize excerpts from my prose and poetry in sheets of mulberry paper, I assembled fragmented recollections and reframed unrecorded historical past into visual narratives. Coloration and texture marked childhood innocence, feminine vulnerability, and bits of recollections.

The blackberry in my storytelling grew to become a metaphor for Black everyday living manufactured from the poetry of my mother’s speech, a southern poetics as she recalled the components of a recipe. As she reminisced about baking, I recalled weekends gathering berries in patches alongside nation roads, the labor of kids amassing berries, placing them in buckets, walking alongside roadways fearful of snakes, listening to what may well be ahead or concealed in the bushes and bramble. All those recollections of blackberry cobbler prompt the handwork, craftwork, and lovework Black people lean on to survive wrestle and celebrate existence.

In a museum speak on July 24, 2022, I related my artistic experiences in the course of the residency and shared how queries about ancestors infused my storytelling. The Blood on a Blackberry collection exhibited at the museum expressed the growth of my writing into multidisciplinary sort. The layers of collage, silhouette, and stitched designs in “Blood on a Blackberry,” “Blackberry Cobbler,” “Braids,” “Can’t See the Street Forward,” “Sit Aspect Me,” “Behind Her Gaze,” “Fannie,” “1870 Census,” and “1880 Census” confronted the previous and imagined reminiscences. The closing panels in the exhibit launched my tribute to Fannie, born in 1840, a probable enslaved foremother. Whilst her lifetime rooted my maternal line in Caroline County, Virginia, investigation exposed sparse lines of biography. I faced a missing website page in background.

Photograph of artist’s gallery converse and discussion of “Fannie,” “1870 Census,” and “1880 Census.”

Aminah Robinson understood the toil of reconstructing what she known as the “missing web pages of American historical past.” Using stitchwork, drawing, and portray she re-membered the previous, preserved marginalized voices, and documented historical past. She marked historic times relating lifestyle times of the Black local community she lived in and beloved. Her operate talked back again to the erasures of historical past. Consequently, the dwelling at 791 Sunbury Road, its contents, and Robinson’s visible storytelling held exclusive that means as I labored there.

I wrote “Sit Side Me” through quiet several hours of reflection. The days right after the incidents in “Blood on a Blackberry” essential the grandmother and Sweet Youngster to sit and acquire their toughness. The start out of their dialogue came to me as poetry and collage. Their story has not ended there is far more to know and assert and think about.

Photograph of artist slicing “Sit Aspect Me” in studio.


Photograph of “Sit Side Me” in the museum gallery. Impression courtesy of Steve Harrison.

Sit Aspect Me
By Darlene Taylor

Tasting the purple-black spoon towards a bowl mouth,
oven warmth sweating sweet nutmeg black,
she halts her kitchen baking.

Sit facet me, she suggests.

I want to sit in her lap, my chin on her shoulder.
Her warm, dark eyes cloud. She leans forward
close plenty of that I can comply with her gaze.

There is significantly to do, she says,
inserting paper and pencil on the table.
Generate this.

Somewhere out the window a bird whistles.
She catches its voice and styles the higher and very low
into phrases to reveal the wrongness and lostness
that took me from faculty. A girl was snatched.

She recall the ruined slip, torn book internet pages,
and the flattened patch.
The terms in my hands scratch.
The paper is also shorter, and I can’t publish.
The thick bramble and thorns make my fingers nevertheless.

She will take the memory and it belong to her.
Her eyes my eyes, her pores and skin my skin.
She know the ache as it handed from me to her,
she know it like sin staining generations,
repeating, remembering, repeating, remembering.
Remembering like she know what it feel like to be a lady,
her fingers slide across the vinyl desk floor to the paper.
Why cease writing? But I do not reply.
And she don’t make me. As an alternative, she qualified prospects me
down her memory of staying a woman.

When she was a woman, there was no university,
no textbooks, no letter composing.
Just thick patches of environmentally friendly and dusty red clay highway.

We get to the only street. She looks considerably taller
with her hair braided versus the sky.
Consider my hand, sweet little one.
With each other we make this wander, maintain this aged highway.

A milky sky flattens and eats steam. Clouds spittle and bend very long the street.

Photos of cut and collage on banners as they hang in the studio at the Aminah Robinson household.

Blood on a Blackberry
By Darlene Taylor

The street bends. In a spot wherever a woman was snatched, no a person says her name. They talk about the
bloody slip, not the misplaced lady. The blacktop road curves there and drops. Just cannot see what’s in advance
so, I hear. Insects scratch their legs and wind their wings higher than their backs. The road sounds

Each individual working day I walk alone on the schoolhouse highway, preserving my eyes on in which I’m heading,
not in which I been. Bruises on my shoulder from carrying textbooks and notebooks, pencils and

Pebbles crunch. An motor grinds, brakes screech. I action into a cloud of pink dust and weeds.
The sandy flavor of street dust dries my tongue. More mature boys, indicate boys, cursing beer-drunk boys
laugh and bluster—“Rusty Female.” They travel quick. Their laughs fade. Feathers of a bent bluebird impale the street. Sunlight beats the crushed chook.

Slicing as a result of the tall, tall grass, I decide up a stick to alert. Tunes and sticks have ability more than
snakes. Bramble snaps. Wild berries squish less than my feet. The ripe scent helps make my tummy
grumble. Briar thorns prick my pores and skin, earning my fingertips bleed. Plucking handfuls, I eat.
Blood on a blackberry ruins the taste.

Guides spill. Backwards I drop. Webpages tear. Classes brown like sugar, cinnamon,
nutmeg. Blackberry stain. Thistles and nettles grate my legs and thighs. Coarse
laughter, not from inside of me. A boy, a laughing boy, a signify boy. Berry black stains my
costume. I run. Property.

The sun burns by way of kitchen home windows, warming, baking. I roll my purple-tipped fingers into
my palms.

Sweet youngster, grandmother will say. Intelligent female.

Tomorrow. On the schoolhouse street.

Photographs of artist slicing textual content and talking about multidisciplinary writing.


Darlene Taylor on the ways of the Aminah Robinson residence photographed by Steve Harrison.

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