All posts by jmardis2014

Poet, Writer, Quilter and Storyteller. Coordinator @ the Family Story Project. Editor of KenteCloth: Southwest Voices of the African Diaspora (UNT Press). Winner of The Pushcart Prize for Poetry. Winner of multiple NABJ GRIOT Awards for Radio Commentary. Jas. Mardis is a 2014 Inductee to The Texas Literary Hall of Fame.

Lily of the Valley

Photo credit April Anue

Lily of the Valley

   by now

          we are clearly smitten

  unsure of the end but certain of the path to it

    all at once I understand something that others have wanted me to read

 or at least the reason for so many to agree
     it is a simple coming together 

 the rising voice of two people who know truly of love

     somewhere along the way

    their tongues have merged into a single song
    you and I know it as kindred spirits

 we already know what the hours ahead of us hold

    so few minutes make up a night together 

    that we are both out of time before the clocks have run full circle
   I want you to be sure of the brown bud

 frozen outside your window 

    baked brown into a dormant husk in defiance of the driven snow

  and laced poorly with the ice-cicled web of a lone spider
   I want you to know that it is a bud of the Rose of Sharon

  again cast against the shadows of another fair Maiden

     the sun darkened lily of the valley

  biding time in the season of bitter cold and frozen brambles
   and so, let’s answer the question rising and falling within your breast

  the one that begs at the corners of your mouth

the one that is awakening the unfamiliar craving tugging 

    riffling and running with your blood’s fire thru your soul
   listen, Sweet, as I speak with a plan of love on my lips

  with every intention of your flowering and blooming 

    of covering and protecting              of comforting and pleasure

   listen, like this bud in repose, for a strum of the web in your Winter
  Our’s is not the Solomon Song

    but You can be the dark maiden come in from the sun 

  breaking free from all of the known words of men and sisters

 pressing your head gently to the thunder of my welcoming breast
  you have been found 

  every whisper of your heart song is heard without need for reprise

 each of your nights are calling for voluminous joy

     endless is your destiny        evermore becomes the only answer 
      and so to your soul I speak:

  Lily of the Valley      Rose of Sharon

    do not bother with the brambles that have so long entangled ’round you

 press into the shadow of their brittle vein and thorns 
   come forward to my arms and favor

 wipe the weeping memory of any binding rope

    untie the warm caress within you

  undress the trembling, waiting, loving, searching hopes.

Jas. Mardis    12/28/2017

Jas. Mardis is an award winning Poet, Commentator and a Fabric Artist living in Dallas, TX. Jas. Is a 2014 inductee to The Texas Literary Hall of Fame. 

Tapestry: Haint-Free Blue Door Formula

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I imagined that the idea for enslaved folks to paint the doors ocean blue was passed around as people were moved around the Southern States during enslavement. Blue doors are said to ward off evil spirits.

The narrative on this piece imagines the formula and when to apply it being handed down by a new person from a different region and being repeated and applied.

15×45 image development, yard, thread, leather and printed text with thread accents. Original Narrative text by Jas. C. Mardis

Photo Credit: Title: Old Negro (former slave) Willis Winn with horn with which slaves were called. Near Marshall, Texas Creator(s): Lee Russell, 1903-1986, photographer, U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black & White Photographs

New Tapestry: “He Spit His Whole Chew on My New Dress”

A few years ago, during a workshop that I used to do with elders on Telling Family Stories, a woman shared a story of finally getting a new yellow dress. She begged her older sister to take her to the town square of their small, Texas town, so that she could “show it off”.

Of course, a ten year old girl walking thru the square of a 1940’s Texas town in a pretty yellow dress brought a hateful response from a White citizen chewing tobacco. Her father’s response was dangerous and immediate, but resulted in the White man’s public apology to the girls.

So, that’s the inspiration for creating a tapestry in honor of her story AND her Father’s honorable response.

The Lord often reveals materials and tools in the midst of inspiration. HE has provided yet again with this wire dress frame. UPDATE: This tapestry is under consideration for private or gallery ownership.

Slideshow images Copyright JasMardis2017

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Jas. Mardis: Iron-Framed Tapestry

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Title: “Believe I’ll Run On…”

I have a friend who is leaving town for a new job😢. I don’t have time to make a quilt but wanted to see if an “iron-framed tapestry” would do.

The image and top quote are from one of her FB posts. I added the bottom text; stitched leather wrapping with yarn and thread binding and, hopefully, a worthy design.

Repurposed and manipulated iron frame. Bamboo strips. Goat hide leather from Kenya (Thanks to Pan African Connection). Mesh fabric with high-end computer printing of an image from her personal FB post with top quoting from a Southern Spiritual with multi-layered color text and image printing.

This is a new creative direction that I can clearly see myself enjoying for a long time to come. Memory and the idea that fabric, metals and all of the items of our lives carry memory is both intriguing and very enlightening.  Being able to add original poetic narratives completes the perfect art-marriage. I am finding that I cannot create as fast as I dream.

Certainly in this case the friend who I created this piece for has opened up a world of joyous and precious awakening. Missing is not a complete enough word for her absence.

If you are enjoying this piece and wondering what I might dream up for you as a gift or art piece, let me invite you to “tell me a story”, “send me a photograph” or just let me know that you’d like to see other pieces in this line of work.




New Jas. Mardis Tapestry: “Flood Water Ain’t Never Blue”

“Flood Water Ain’t Never Blue” is the experience of two young girls during the great Arkansas flood of February 1937. It was a dangerous time, but a time when a girl met her best friend for life. They also learned a version of the folktale about why it rains while the sun is still shining. My Grandmother used to tell me about this flood from her youth. I found this picture while doing family history research on that flood.

From the “Eye Witness Series” from Jas. Mardis
Photo credit: Walker Evans and US Farm Security Administration collection

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Jas. Mardis Tapestry Update

I have three pieces accepted in the juried show “blkART214” at the South Dallas Cultural Center in Dallas, Texas, just up the street from the State Fair Grounds. Shows runs April 9-29, 2017 and features established and emerging Artists of Color from the DFW Metro.

I’m excited to finally be on the Arthello Beck Gallery’s wall! This Cultural Center that I saw being built is turning 30 years old. There are awards and one Artist will be selected for a solo gallery show.

I entered: “Am I Human To You Yet?: The Return of the African Dodger; From The Front Porch; and Sketches of Fatherhood.

The tapestry, “Am I Human To You Yet?: The Return of the African Dodger” was recently returned from a three month show at The Holocaust Museum of Houston.

I’m glad that these three were selected. They are three different pieces featuring: leather burning, thread and yarn couching, poetry/text, image printing on fabric, coinage, wire and metal work alongside leather and image transferring. “Fatherhood” is from a series of 10 tapestries made from a vintage tablecloth.

Cold This Month Poetry: ‘Be “Absolutely” For…


(for M.L., why not…)

Before I see you again
I will think of the way you consider your words with me
I will consider the smiles that you have held onto
and returned to your breast as though you needed back the breath

I will see you coming thru every door and down every hallway
always a surprise worthy of reliving
worth the price of the aloneness that follows

your arrival
and going away again
slipping thru sudden moments
creating and creasing your way into my hope: a Christmas unto yourself

I will begin each one of my next sentences with a loud laugh
I will start them over again and again

for each time that
I imagine you will smile
even with your face and beating heart so fully turned into worship

before I see you again
before you enter   and sway    and send forth your glow
before there is a shivering thought and smile of my own over you
before I can remember that other women walk the Earth
before the Sun warms your skin
before it spreads your smile
before it slits your eyes into that pencil-thin gaze that you’ve perfected
before …
before …be-absolutely-for
being adored …

go ahead and know that I’m always
until it happens again


Jas. Mardis /12-16
Jas. Mardis is a 2014 Inductee of the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and Editor of “KenteCloth: Southwest Voices of the African Diaspora, UNT PRESS