The Idea of Ancestry

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after Etheridge Knight

 

 

 

 

 

I have crossed this land and let me tell you a story
of its struggle.

Let me tell you how I come from grass,
a white flower with a sun in its center,
a moss-covered stone fence running for miles
without stopping.

I am remnants of castle.
I am a green field’s patchwork
with its sheep, grazing.

Let me tell you how I am an empty church,
how I come from the grass
which comes from the dirt
which loves the rain.

I am my mother’s mother’s name.

I have laid my back upon the water like a raft.
I have crossed an ocean in order to come back.

I am my sister’s looking up,
I am my brother’s question about god each time I come home
and I don’t have the voice to tell him
I don’t believe in the world
that will walk away from him
or the grown-ups who aren’t aware
of his upward stare

and I am not
Tiger enough

to suggest that the North Pole is not paved in candy cane
but instead, is ice, and is melting.

I am stained
glass, shattering.

I am the engine’s kick. I was a broken left wrist.
I am made of desert. I have put my face
to the fur of a yellow lab and heard
its thunder. I am my brother’s spark,
my sister’s blue. I am my mother’s dream,
the smoke in the room. I am the candle’s
melted wax hardening into bone.
I was a light bulb burnt out
and replaced. I am
and will be the branch untraced
back to the beginning
of what was

 now is

and tomorrow you will be
a sunrise.

You will be my coffee-kissing sugar.
You will have one moment
when you are not sleeping,
when you are grass rising
from the grave. You are the shard of broken glass
you saved. You are the wolf’s love of moon.
You are your sister’s bones and both of you will break
like your mothers, and like your fathers
in dark rooms absent of eyes and you must
know this:

I am this
close to an end
I am not ready for.

I was once
a double-decker bus in Dublin.
I was a sky of oranges peeling onto trees.
I was once two scabby knees. I am a wall
of photographs that always say even when
I don’t listen:

Look at us, we were once

                                                                        yours.

And you and your mothers are birds flying away,
and you and your fathers are continents
drifting apart.

You are the hills of vein in your hands.
These cliffs are your teeth, and your body
is an island, and grey stones sink
in your eyes. And your hair
is this grass, growing.
And these roads rising are your legs, and these flowers
are your breasts and smell as sweet
as the bees’ blossom
and the mountain’s peaking
and the horizon’s humming
and the world spinning
and the smoke’s molecular magic
and this untranslatable language between stone and sea
is not yours anymore. Tonight
the moon dances on the inside
because don’t we all
have a little hummingbird
in our souls
and a little fire
on our lips
and a little water
in our brains
and a little galaxy
swimming
through our blood—I was once
yours, and tonight I will fall asleep with your face
on the inside of my cheek, my tongue
still trying to taste the song
we used to sing.

 

Photo By Angelo Amboldi 

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About Author

Maggie Graber is an M.F.A. candidate at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Her chapbook, Beads, was a finalist in the 2012 Button Poetry Exploding Pinecone Chapbook Contest, and her work has been featured or is forthcoming in Toad, Utter, Avatar Review, and Gingerbread House among others. She loves Lake Michigan.

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