The Quilt Project–dVerse Poetics

The Quilt Project

Each patch a life,
crafted with love,
clothed in pain,
cloaked in loss.

Tom and Kevin,
Jeff and Diane:
this virus does not
discriminate, like us,

Like those unable
to see the person
stitched in each square,

for gifts they gave.
Judge not the fabric
of these young lives
lost too soon.

Acres upon acres
of color, shape, texture,
bound as one
in a common shroud.

At the Washington Mall

In the late 1980’s to early 1990’s I worked as a nurse in San Francisco caring for AIDS patients and managing an AIDS Unit at Mt.Zion/UCSF Medical Center. The epidemic was in it’s early stages and the medical community still didn’t understand it well. Treatment options were limited and death was certain. During these few years, I learned to look beyond the stigma of the disease as I got to know my patients as persons. Mostly younger gay males, yes, but not exclusively. There was a nurse who acquired HIV from a blood transfusion, women who got the disease from unfaithful husbands and IV drug abusers. My husband and I lost a friend, Tom–a man who, along with his partner, had been an usher in our wedding. Many of these victims were talented, artistic and brilliant. (Tom was a PhD who worked in vector control for the state of California.) The Quilt Project began early on in the outbreak. We hosted segments of the quilt at the hospital where I worked. David and I toured an exhibit at the Moscone Center…a huge building where rows upon row of quilts told the stories of these lives. This poem is a rough draft, but the story needs to be told.

In loving memory of Tom Mischke

Linked to dVerse Poetics which I was happy to host on the subject of quilting.


25 thoughts on “The Quilt Project–dVerse Poetics

  1. Other Mary says:

    This is a very moving piece, and even more so your comments after. Your compassion and dedication shine.


  2. Your ‘rough draft’ is pretty cose to finished, I think. I agree it’s very important and needs to be told.I liked reading your own story here, too. And I very much liked reading the material at the earlier link. Well, ‘liked’ is perhaps the wrong word – but I’m glad to know these things rather than be left in ignorance.


  3. ManicDdaily says:

    Just lovely. Thanks. K.


  4. Pat Hatt says:

    A wonderful quilt of words, great story and truly should be shared over and over.


  5. Usha Dawn says:

    I feel more connected here as I am also supporting the orphan HIV kids…who are there out for not their fault yet already suffering……dawn to dusk…
    God Bless You!


  6. Usha Dawn says:

    I must say there is much deep message embedded in the first four lines dear 🙂
    beautiful as the pain is squeezed out in words the beauty of the poetry has just come out like after wash of the Henna 🙂
    Beautiful write …keep it up


  7. Stephanie says:

    You have such admirable thoughts…I wish more people would accept the beauty of humans’ diversity. In your poem, I especially liked ‘judge not the fabric’ of their lives and how this tied into the imagery of a quilt. Such a sad poem and uplifting at the same time.


  8. Very sad, but moving; wonderfully written..


  9. tigerbrite says:

    This is a stunning project. You are a brave and compassionate woman. I remember the beginning of the AIDS epidemic when it was so little understood. I worked with some gay stewards for an airline at the time and they were frightened and sometimes shunned even by their flight colleagues. That mall is a shocking reminder.


  10. claudia says:

    the story needs to be told..again and again.. this is a sensitive and honorable write for those that died…too many died and still die nameless… thanks for seeing the person stitched in these squares and including the names… love this..


  11. brian miller says:

    i like it victoria…and your compassion shines through in your squares….it is a dreadful thing to see life cut short for any reason and we need to find a cure…a common shroud for sure…


  12. Each stanza a little square. The idea is all the more beautiful for the dignified way you present it.

    I really like this prompt. It’s so rich, the mind fires off in many directions thinking about it. Thanks Victoria. I remember those early years of AIDS very well – frightening, heart-breaking times.


  13. jenneandrews says:

    A moving, beautiful poem, Victoria. You could have gone overboard and didn’t — you have a wonderful sense of what belongs and what doesn’t to offer up the most impact– i.e. a wonderful mastery of craft. I especially loved:

    Each patch a life,
    crafted with love,
    clothed in pain,
    cloaked in loss.

    completed in the notion of quilt as common shroud at the end. xxxj


  14. Proud of you and your love and obvious compassion. When it was so little known the fear overran common sense back then. God bless all those who took part in helping research and showing that it wasn’t something that anyone could catch from simple contact. So many lives lost to AIDS HIV though even though it is now more treatable, still no cure. It’s an honour knowing you. Lovely tribute to those who have passed and those who work endlessly to help others.


  15. vivinfrance says:

    I remember seeing those quilts in patchwork magazines – heartbreaking. Your poem may be a draft, but it’s a powerful one that brings the story home to us.


  16. This post gave me chills–the quilt and what it represents and your stunning words. Very powerful.


  17. k8edid says:

    The poem is lovely. I am sorry for the loss of your friend. As a nurse, I have cared for AIDS patients, and those with HIV.


  18. Dulce says:

    A really great quilt you’ve done. Congrats!


  19. df barker says:

    ‘Rough draft’ or not, I really like this. So moving and sad and so true, of course.


  20. MISH says:

    What an awesome poem Victoria!
    I really loved this phrase: “… judge not the fabric of these young lives…”


  21. siggiofmaine says:

    Impressive post. It is amazing the work you have done…and thank you for sharing those experiences. I agree with you that it is important to put faces, their personalities to our patients ..they are not their diseases or where they came from, who their parents are… so many externals that others judge people on. Thank you for sharing. And condolences in the loss of your friend, Tom.
    Siggi in Downeast Maine


  22. Ravenblack says:

    Draft or not, it’s a good one and needs to be told. Not enough focus on the afllicted with the aggressive campaign on preventions. Thanks for sharing; that’s an awesome campaign.


  23. zongrik says:

    that’s amazing. i’m proud of you for your work.


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