June 24, 2012

breaking the silence to say:

My family lost a patriarch nine days ago, and I'm still mulling over what that means, to my heritage and my future.

But I think this poem by Maurice Manning is a small slice of what's running through my head & my heart.


The older boy said, Take ye a slash
o' this--hit'll make yore sticker peck out--

which would have been a more profound
effect than putting hair on my chest,

to which I was already accustomed.
Proverbially, of course, he was right.

I took a slash, another, and then
I felt an impassioned swelling, though

between my ears, as they say, a hot
illumination in my brain.

The shine had not been cut; full of
the moon it was for sure. I knew

the mountain county it came from--
my family's section, on Little Goose.

A distant cousin would have been proud
to know another cousin was drinking

what might as well be blood, at least
the bonds that come with blood, the laugh

before the tragic truth, the love
of certain women, the hate for lies,

the knowledge that death can be a mercy,
the vision blurred and burning there

in the mind and in the wounded heart.
This was the first time I heard the story

I was born to tell, the first I knew
that I was in the story, too.