My only partner in this work

The only partner I have had in this……………………………………….is you.


The only partner I have had in this to wait, to listen, and to see me through, unknown, yet inches from this line, is you; yet I might know you well enough to kiss— with each always purchase of the other, with each a continent to understand, with each a hidden people, hidden land sharing all lines and the quilted cover of the Earth, now surveyed; waiting to be remade. —from FRAMESHIFTS, PART 3, VOL. 2, P. 376 BY RICHARD ROSE (2011)

Calamities are downfalls for some and windfalls for others. We are givers and takers, partners and apart, in shifting realms and roles in a turbulent world. The practice of frame-shifts is like planning for emergencies.

Recently, I’ve been receiving training in giving emergency services during disasters. It doesn’t seem that different from imagining stories, poems, and music, or graphic arts like this quilt made in 1944 by Mary Hobson. How’s that?

A quilt–or a story, or a poem–begins with a frame of reference. The quilts currently on display at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts from Gee’s Bend Quilters of Selma, AL immediately raise questions with their house-tops, staggered bricks, partial frames or different frames overlaid for a stereoscopic effect, silk and corduroy lines, and repeated patterns of unrepeated designs–what Edward Tufte might have called “small multiples” in his works on envisioning information. Then consider how they were made. As Rita Mae Pettway said, “Piecing them up, you do that by yourself; but quilting we all did it together.” (See #treeoflifevmfa and

Arts embody understandings. The artist gives you a story to enter, a role or song to play, a gesture or poem to repeat and comprehend. These imaginative frames of reference are given to hold between you–the artist on one side, you on the other, like the women holding a quilt between them. The work of stitching draws in the calamities of the community, the givers and takers making sense of their turbulent worlds.

Amusement is not at stake.

Amusement is not at stake; we are surfeited by amusing distractions. The arts give us objects to hold between us. This is the meaning of  “entertainment,” coming from the French words for “holding between.”

Holding a frame of reference–someone else’s understanding of the world–between us has been called “suspending disbelief,” but it seems to me that it is more like the emergency planning of first-responders as they imagine what they will do in different scenarios, and then go on to plan rehearsals. Entertaining ideas is different from seeking amusement: it’s a serious business even when we’re laughing about it. We are always in rehearsal. As Joe says in Saroyan’s play The Time of Your Life, humans are always rehearsing and have to keep rehearsing finally to become themselves. Arts help us with the work on ourselves.

I write speculative fiction, poetry, and music, so pardon my suggestion that the speculations offered by writers, poets, visual artists, performers, and composers are not back-scratchers to touch an itch you can’t reach–an itch to be amused.  They are given to stitch worlds together, to hold like a life-line between the givers and the takers; they are offered for the entertainment of ideas. And for finding partners.




Since 2011, I’ve been peddling my works in various ways.  Here’s an invitation to any partners out there:

TO READ A SAMPLE OF FRAMESHIFTS: Berkeley Hotel chapter from FS

To buy BOOKS FOR A QUILTED HUMANITY BY RICHARD L. ROSE:  Find them on Amazon. When you read one, please leave a review!  Currently available by clicking on the icons on this page are      FRAMESHIFTS (2 volumes) and Coming Around (journeys in and out of Richmond over 200 years, since the time it was a sales center for enslaved human beings.) Also on Amazon is an e-book, Death Wears A Tricorn, the first story in Frameshifts. And . .

COME TO  MY Reading at the Writing Center in Charlottesville (508 Dale Ave. 22902) 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, See

OR COME TO THE Book Festival in Fredericksburg, 10 a.m to 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 21

OR COME TO: Booklovers’ Festival at Jefferson Park in Richmond on Saturday, October 19,



Richard L. Rose


3 thoughts on “My only partner in this work

  1. Hi Ann, Also, the works of Thornton Dial (, particularly The Morning of the End of the World, made after 9/11/2001, an altar-like work or rerebos, reminds me of Hampton’s Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millenium in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Both are amazing visionary works made of humble materials.

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