Poetry
Spring/Summer 2018

I Know Your Name Now

by Kyndall Flowers

Marguerite,
my oldest mother
my furthest back descendant

it’s nice to know i come from

strength like that it’s nice to know

i come from

i didn’t know what i was searching for when
when i signed up for the ancestry.com free trial
the commercials got a whole lot of white people in them

finding out they not the type of white they thought they were

i only expected some extra cousins
a far removed aunt, but still
my whole family sat wide eyed at the computer
had fourteen days to get drunk off of our own bloodline

to un-orphan ourselves

all my history sleeps in a screenshot now

but at least i learned your name

Marguerite
a little bit of your history

of mine

in 1977 a lightskin girl
who i guess is my cousin
found out you was one of her grandmothers, too

said she was sick for three days
at the thought of black in her blood

Marguerite,
the louisiana sun couldn’t scorch you out of no veins

you stubborn girl
resurrection woman

i heard you had four babies

by the slave owner
after his wife died
& i heard he might have loved you
i cant steady my hands
to write a slave owners name into my family tree

but his name was gregoire

when he died you went 100 miles

to new orleans
and couldn’t take your children

the four of them still property

of gregoire’s ex-wives kids

Marguerite,
you hard work woman
got called into court fore you could buy them out

of that white wife haunted house

they said you runaway
thought your freedom
would fall through like a neck and rope

float off like a body in the water

chased out like heels and a dog

i learned they hated you Marguerite
your step children of the same seed
how you slipped their father under your tongue
like a pill and kept him there
how their mother couldn’t keep him in the big hous
e

but your scent would drag him out
like blood to a wolf

you pushed four of his children

out of your body
each one with your face
and loose hair

each one

an echo of yourself
the slavemasters sin
the forbidden fruit
born out of only terrible things

Marguerite if you could go back and stop boats with strange flags from ever finding senegal would you even if it meant i would not be here to write this poem would you i think i would i would dissolve myself and everyone i love

but here we are
and there you were
and there were your children and gregorie
who might have loved you

i heard when one of the children from gregoire's first marriage tried sell you off

gregoire threatened to leak his own bloods blood
chose you over his porcelain son
said he needed you at his deathbed

they hated you Marguerite
your own step children
when you walked out of that court room free like a black bird

i’m sure gregoire’s son saw red
the same color of his blood
on his father's knife

in your freedom papers your children's father asked

that you be loved and free

Marguerite, were you ever loved?

were you ever free?

 

Marguerite,

i'm just tryna get loved and free

Marguerite,
i wish i slept enough for you to visit in a dream

i’ve started believing in ghosts because i have to believe in you

i think i see you sometimes but you look like every shadow

every shaking petal on my grandfathers hibiscus bush
every drop of grease in the gumbo pot

Marguerite i wish i could be free for you
but i’ve been pulling my hair out the whole time i been writing this poem

i only see you in the curve of my back

the spin of a curl, a bitten off fingernail

they all look like question marks

Marguerite, every day it feels like the world might end
and you still went 100 miles to new orleans to buy your babies freedom

and all i can do is close my eyes and rock back and forth

i don’t belong here Marguerite
with these white boys and boat shoes

and blue suits and guns

with these politicians
and broken pipes
and all these bleeding sons

is it bad
that on the worst nights
when the pain is too loud not to leak

when i want to crawl into my mothers bed

and make a home there
i think of your name, wonder
if sometimes you felt the same


way, too

is it bad that I think yes you did,
and it helps? 

- Kyndall Flowers

Photo: ​​Shirley Sonnier Olivier's kitchen in Lake Charles, Louisiana, with her daughter, Tracy Olivier Flowers.

Kyndall Flowers lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She'll be starting at Howard University in the Fall. During her gap year, she’s working with the Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellowship of the University of Michigan; the Neutral Zone, Ann Arbor's teen center, as a literary arts intern; and The Hosting, a gallery and performance space. She is a two-time winner of the Ann Arbor Poetry Slam, and she’s been published in HEArt Online

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