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From Function, Form

by Rebecca Foust

On the bus to Salinas, sectioned fields

plumed with blue sprinkler arcs;
a distant tractor trailed dust in rows

like Log Cabin quilt bars, alternating
wine, green and gray, like the earth
in its seasons. The quilt was Amish,

stitched in the ditch, twelve dips per inch,
the hair-thin sharp rocking through cotton
in a lullaby rhythm, ten thousand stitches

in long, straight rows. In its sea of mute
color one bar was scarlet, a spark caught
flame, and the wide gray borders

were a riot of quilted texture—hyacinth
curlicues, looping patterns called
Clamshell or Wave. I think of her,

three states away from any ocean, locked
in long days patterned on piety, a woman
slipping in fancywork to break up the plain.

But when it turned in the distance,
the tractor blazed red, its back wheels
tracing great, slow arcs in a sea

of dust to begin the next row. Not some
whimsy or homespun rebellion
but a faithful rendering, what she saw.

(first published in The Hudson Review, Spring 2010)