Kundalini Splendor

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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

'Ancestors"––poem by Dorothy 


Men in overalls,
women in sunbonnets,
backbreaking labor
in the rented fields,
even when the price
of cotton went down.

The night that the mule
even before the neighbor
who had bought it
could come by and retrieve
his purchase.
Sad day for everyone,
especially the mule.

The one from Connecticut
who fought for the colonies
in the very first war.
The one who soldiered
for the South in the war between
the states––moved with a limp
the rest of his days, proof of valor.  Walked all
the way home from the final battle,
the family sitting quietly at evening heard
the dogs barking in the yard
and knew he was
alive and come back.
How did they feel?
(Tears for me, memory of return.)

The child who was beaten
and then dropped dead
in the yard soon after,
long ago, before the war,
days of spare the rod.

The grandfather who
went to trial
for murder of opponent
in a fight (acquitted)
white man vs. black,
frontier justice,
Georgia, 1880's,
outcome foretold.

Early governor,
new state,
mean spirited curmudgeon,
lawyer, itinerant Methodist preacher,
heart as hard
as a rock,
turned the pleading
veterans away.

Betty the grandmother,
five young children,
both husbands early dead,
no one knew why,
she pregnant each time,
survival itself now a goal
in the Indian territory,
not yet a state.

Lived in two room
unpainted cottage
in tiny town,
boys slept on the floor,
chicken every Sunday,
cow for milk,
"the Widow Jones,"
good church going woman
who kept them alive.
Old before her time.

Almost no evidence
of who any were,
penciled list of
Betty's trousseau,
petticoat and undies
she made herself,
rough platter
brought from Ireland.

Coal oil lamps
and outdoor privies,
washtub baths,
water from wells,
spelling bees,
camptown revivals,
families in wagons
from miles around,
women aflame with the spirit on fire,
shouting loudly,
swinging their bonnets
over their heads,
sound of tom toms
a few miles away,
Indian powwows,
tribal ceremonies.

Town celebration Christmas eve,
each child one present,
maybe an apple
or an orange,
rare winter fruit,
if well off
a doll or a toy.

Sunday walks to the river,
young people welcoming the train,
chickens and milk cows,
gardens with sun ripe tomatoes,
unicorn darting across her path,
small white creature, one horn on its head,
what was its name?
Mother was only a child.

The picture of the other
grandfather, young,
cowboy hat,
and all,
like Wyatt Earp,
style of the times,
image long lost,
wooed the widow with
a poem,
"Do not mourn for the pearl
that is lost in the sea"
(plaintive refrain)
brought over his trunk
from the station
and they were wed,
in the buggy
on their way
to the preacher
he tried to hold her hand
but she withdrew,
too bold,
left him with her glove,
died when mother
was two years old,
he rocked her
and called her "Doll,"
only memory.

Who were they, really,
these folks each a necessary link,
random sperm and egg uniting
in the long chain––
so little seeming resemblance
to who I am––
how can I think of them
when the evidence is mostly gone?
Like trying to remember the separate leaves
on a tree long dead.

What would they think
of me now, if they knew?

Dorothy Walters
February 8, 2017

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