a tribute to my genealogy-obsessed husband

IMG_1914Inheritance

Stoic and straight-backed
as the chairs they carried into their bare yard,
your ancestors sat for this photograph.

I have seen them
staring at me through years and glass.
And I have seen you stare at them,
looking for the trickle
that will distill you from their sepia world.

I can feel the determination
in their old and impervious roots.
And I can feel their immigrant blood in your veins.
Sometimes it wakes you at night.
Ancient whispers calling you
stirring your ancestral boughs.

So you dig
through time and dust,
patiently unearthing the grains of their truth
and their youth, and slowly,
the years dissolve, and that gnarled couple,
dutifully dressed, children by their side
breathe again.

Perhaps they ran away
from dried up dreams,
wading through defiant streams.
Maybe a clatter of galloping hooves
echoed along the cobbled roads
from a distant fjord,
freedom’s wind erasing all traces of their past,
carrying them like topsoil
to fertile ground.

This may explain why you kneel
just to feel the soil they sowed
sift through your fingers,
and why you love the expanse of plains
too vast to comprehend horizon,
and the summer smell of a sea of green corn
on an Iowa evening.

Copyright 1995

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