Time and Reflection: Behind Her Gaze


Historical past-mapping draws the large and narrow, the regarded and not known earlier to the current. In the course of my residency at the Aminah Robinson dwelling, I examined the impulses behind my prose poem “Blood on a Blackberry” and discovered a kinship with the textile artist and author who designed her household a resourceful safe and sound place. I crafted narratives through a mixed media application of vintage buttons, antique laces and materials, and text on cloth-like paper. The starting up point for “Blood on a Blackberry” and the crafting all through this challenge was a photograph taken a lot more than a century in the past that I identified in a loved ones album. Three generations of ancestral moms held their bodies nevertheless outside the house of what appeared like a inadequately-designed cabin. What struck me was their gaze.

Three generations of women in Virginia. Photograph from the writer’s spouse and children album. Museum art communicate “Time and Reflection: At the rear of Her Gaze.”

What views hid behind their deep penetrating appears? Their bodies prompt a permanence in the Virginia landscape all around them. I realized the names of the ancestor mothers, but I realized minor of their life. What had been their techniques? What tracks did they sing? What dreams sat in their hearts? Stirred their hearts? What ended up the evening appears and day appears they listened to? I desired to know their ideas about the environment all-around them. What frightened them? How did they talk when sitting down with buddies? What did they confess? How did they converse to strangers? What did they conceal? What was girlhood like? Womanhood? These thoughts led me to composing that explored how they need to have felt.

Research was not ample to carry them to me. Recorded public historical past normally distorted or omitted the stories of these gals, so my history-mapping relied on recollections affiliated with feelings. Toni Morrison known as memory “the deliberate act of remembering, a form of willed generation – to dwell on the way it appeared and why it appeared in a distinct way.” The act of remembering by way of poetic language and collage helped me to improved recognize these ancestor mothers and give them their say.

Photos of the artist and visual texts of ancestor moms hanging in studio at Aminah Robinson property.

Working in Aminah Robinson’s studio, I traveled the line that carries my family historical past and my imaginative producing crossed new boundaries. The texts I developed reimagined “Blood on a Blackberry” in hand-reduce styles drawn from traditions of Black women’s stitchwork. As I slash excerpts from my prose and poetry in sheets of mulberry paper, I assembled fragmented recollections and reframed unrecorded historical past into visible narratives. Shade and texture marked childhood innocence, female vulnerability, and bits of reminiscences.

The blackberry in my storytelling turned a metaphor for Black existence produced from the poetry of my mother’s speech, a southern poetics as she recalled the ingredients of a recipe. As she reminisced about baking, I recalled weekends collecting berries in patches alongside region roads, the labor of kids gathering berries, inserting them in buckets, walking alongside streets fearful of snakes, listening to what could be forward or concealed in the bushes and bramble. Individuals reminiscences of blackberry cobbler advised the handwork, craftwork, and lovework Black people lean on to endure battle and rejoice everyday living.

In a museum talk on July 24, 2022, I similar my inventive experiences for the duration of the residency and shared how inquiries about ancestors infused my storytelling. The Blood on a Blackberry assortment exhibited at the museum expressed the expansion of my producing into multidisciplinary form. The levels of collage, silhouette, and stitched styles in “Blood on a Blackberry,” “Blackberry Cobbler,” “Braids,” “Can’t See the Highway Ahead,” “Sit Side Me,” “Behind Her Gaze,” “Fannie,” “1870 Census,” and “1880 Census” confronted the past and imagined reminiscences. The final panels in the exhibit released my tribute to Fannie, born in 1840, a very likely enslaved foremother. Though her lifetime rooted my maternal line in Caroline County, Virginia, investigate discovered sparse lines of biography. I faced a lacking website page in heritage.

Photograph of artist’s gallery speak and dialogue of “Fannie,” “1870 Census,” and “1880 Census.”

Aminah Robinson recognized the toil of reconstructing what she termed the “missing internet pages of American background.” Using stitchwork, drawing, and portray she re-membered the past, preserved marginalized voices, and documented background. She marked historic moments relating everyday living moments of the Black group she lived in and beloved. Her get the job done talked back to the erasures of historical past. Hence, the household at 791 Sunbury Street, its contents, and Robinson’s visual storytelling held distinctive indicating as I labored there.

I wrote “Sit Side Me” during quiet hours of reflection. The times after the incidents in “Blood on a Blackberry” essential the grandmother and Sweet Youngster to sit and acquire their toughness. The get started of their conversation arrived to me as poetry and collage. Their story has not ended there is much more to know and declare and consider.

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


Photograph of “Sit Aspect Me” in the museum gallery. Picture courtesy of Steve Harrison.

Sit Facet Me
By Darlene Taylor

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

Sit side me, she suggests.

I want to sit in her lap, my chin on her shoulder.
Her warm, dark eyes cloud. She leans forward
near sufficient that I can stick to her gaze.

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

Someplace out the window a hen whistles.
She catches its voice and shapes the large and lower
into words and phrases to clarify the wrongness and lostness
that took me from school. A lady was snatched.

She don’t forget the ruined slip, torn ebook web pages,
and the flattened patch.
The words in my palms scratch.
The paper is also quick, and I just cannot publish.
The thick bramble and thorns make my hands even now.

She usually takes the memory and it belong to her.
Her eyes my eyes, her skin my pores and skin.
She know the ache as it passed 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 woman,
her fingers slide across the vinyl desk floor to the paper.
Why halt writing? But I don’t reply.
And she really do not make me. As an alternative, she prospects me
down her memory of staying a girl.

When she was a lady, there was no university,
no books, no letter composing.
Just thick patches of environmentally friendly and dusty pink clay highway.

We take to the only road. She seems much taller
with her hair braided against the sky.
Just take my hand, sweet kid.
Jointly we make this wander, maintain this previous road.

A milky sky flattens and eats steam. Clouds spittle and bend extended the highway.

Pictures of slash and collage on banners as they cling in the studio at the Aminah Robinson home.

Blood on a Blackberry
By Darlene Taylor

The street bends. In a put the place a girl was snatched, no one particular says her name. They converse about the
bloody slip, not the dropped female. The blacktop road curves there and drops. Just cannot see what’s forward
so, I pay attention. Insects scratch their legs and wind their wings over their backs. The road seems

Each and every day I walk on your own on the schoolhouse road, retaining my eyes on where by I’m heading,
not exactly where I been. Bruises on my shoulder from carrying books and notebooks, pencils and

Pebbles crunch. An engine grinds, brakes screech. I phase into a cloud of pink dust and weeds.
The sandy style of road dust dries my tongue. More mature boys, signify boys, cursing beer-drunk boys
laugh and bluster—“Rusty Woman.” They drive rapid. Their laughs fade. Feathers of a bent bluebird impale the street. Sunshine beats the crushed hen.

Cutting as a result of the tall, tall grass, I pick up a stick to alert. Tracks and sticks have electric power over
snakes. Bramble snaps. Wild berries squish less than my feet. The ripe scent helps make my stomach
grumble. Briar thorns prick my pores and skin, creating my fingertips bleed. Plucking handfuls, I consume.
Blood on a blackberry ruins the flavor.

Publications spill. Backwards I drop. Internet pages tear. Lessons 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 indicate boy. Berry black stains my
costume. I operate. Property.

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

Sweet baby, grandmother will say. Smart lady.

Tomorrow. On the schoolhouse highway.

Photographs of artist cutting textual content and discussing multidisciplinary composing.


Darlene Taylor on the methods of the Aminah Robinson household photographed by Steve Harrison.


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