Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The History At Home | 17. The Mothers

I. Great Great Grandmother Luisa

Dona Luisa's legs stretched to the tops of mountains.
I heard she could stopper volcanoes. One finger damming
the surging flame, she arranged landscapes to her own liking.
Moved mountains into a personal staircase to the universe
like most women fuss over flower arrangements.

Around her waist, Dona Luisa wore a paper cut sharp machete.
She used it to cut off a man's leg once when she descended
from her mountaintop. Eighty crystal petticoats leapt and flashed
flares of rainbows during her swirling warrior dance.

When Dona Luisa flew to the U.S. from Panama, it took an Act Of Congress.
In the bedroom of my great grandmother's Brooklyn brownstone
Dona Luisa sits straight backed and muted by Spanish
in this new world. Proud and dignified at 95,
she smiles at me with blind eyes.

II. Great Grandmother Carrington

Madame Adina grew the only known replica of Eden.
I heard it went on for acres (immense & defiant fertility,
sonic explosions of life eternally flowering and fruiting )
amidst the chaos, ruin, garbage and concrete of modern Brooklyn.

Madame Adina sang seeds to sprout cradled in her brown sugar palms.
Hummed window pane clear notes around the hearth fire,
while she transformed the abundance at her back door
into the ambrosia of revolution. Fed Ghana and Tanzania
their first freedom songs and sent them home to root.

Endless diets of broiled grapefruit.
When she brought her garden to Pittsburgh
& established a command center in my mother's kitchen,
coconut drop biscuits, succulent tamarind sauces and mango
fantasies dripped from my chin.

III. Grandmother Maida

Sister Maida danced on time zones like a tight rope walker.
I heard she could walk through thin air. Had penetrated
the deepest jungles of Africa, America and India
with the whisper of magic words she alone created
& armed only with the ever-changing moon in her hands.

Sister Maida's thin smooth silver arrows
lodged in the heart of monsters so potently insidious
they could only be called in the low vernacular,
capitalists. Even pierced by her thin gray shafts
they labored on. & three times around the world she spun
as new countries sprang up like flowers in her footprints.

Basking in a warm elegance of color,
the rich tones of equality,
solidarity makes me live her words.

IV. Mother

emerged full grown from her father's head laughing,

her helmet fashionably cocked to one side and armed
with gray calculations designed to unsettle the world.

She forced continents together like siblings. Relaxed
in the ocean of her own generosity. The battleground

of her desk always sticky with the gore
of peace treaties between resource and poverty.

Soft talk, glitter, tinkling, rustles in the morning,
sacrifices of broiled grapefruit to the immortal five
pounds and being told to clean my room.


This is what I remember.
Never being able

to rip the woman from the goddess,
and here I stand. A woman

clothed only in vocabulary.

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