My ancestors have put on weight,
their bodies white against the skyline
of Brooklyn or Warsaw,
bath slippers skimming over black roof.
Here my ancestors tan and do not age,
saving, “The sky was never like this.
So uncluttered, so gay.” I come up
once a week with Coppertone and the Sunday
Times. It’s enough, it takes them all week
to argue through seventeen sections.
When I tell them I’m expecting, they nod, saying,
“butterflies, not moths,” and their heads bow
like sunflowers heavy with wisdom, dropping seeds.
The)’ suggest names: “After Uncle Able—
if he hadn’t pulled me off the picket line
to meet your grandfather…”
Months later, my belly flat as a puddle,
they throw me a shower, the only rain
since the first sleepless night I climbed
those ancient stairs to look down at clenched
courtyards that shriek with streetlight.
I give birth. They stand around as my head
emerges from between my own legs, grinning
and .spitting tailor’s chalk, pins.
Up on tar beach, this so called fire-escape
where rescue could only come from above,
there’s nothing to do but learn.
We study the geography of my recent mistakes;
municipal shrubs pruned into arrows
point to a car-dotted patch,
the inventory of parts. Something will come
clear there, opines the retired tire king.
Maps, clues, knishes and I’m on my way,
clutching their map of my destiny,
the illegible commentary, the ornate
symbols like a zoological graph of my soul.
At the squashed hedgehog I know
to turn right. I keep crossing tracks
with stalled trains in the distance,
loading and unloading indistinct forms
A generation of architects wave t-squares
from the clouds. Cousin Ben wants me to hurry,
“because we’re hungry.” But I get lost.
I’m gone alone time.
Afterwards when I find my way back
I can’t bear to see the rusting lounge chairs,
their vinyl strips cracked and ready to tear
at the least imposition of weight.
Robin A. Morris lives in Amherst, Massachusetts where she’s pursuing a doctorate hi 20th-century poetry by women. Her poems have appeared in Plastic Tower and Pen and Ink.