Rabbits and cochineal have changed
the course of history. Drones die
immediately after mating. If you can
be trusted with very little, you can be
trusted. We’re clay and seawater.
Credit cards describe the golden
ratio. Any two-foot circle of earth
holds enough organisms to make
into ink. Many mothers leave their
children. Nothing’s inconceivable.
All those Ancestry.com emails serve up men, men, men, men, men,
all claiming to be my second and third cousins, like a twisted dating
site: male relatives I never met sliding into my DMs. Where are the women?
Why can they not find me? Am I the only woman who spat into a tube
because I can’t touch the kinship cup, can’t feel our entanglements undulating,
see myself in a warped glass in the cabinet of immortals, just me dumbly
gathering feathers from the backyard, a jay bluing the mix.
Faceless Ancestor, I was taught to walk away, to not know and be
as fed as anyone who has never seen a full plate of greens or grains,
so I can’t call you Grandmother in any language, and it hurts to not
have a girl gang of aunties built into my DNA. I forgot the mother because
I was told to, became someone else’s good daughter with bad lungs,
finding birch bark long enough to write on, a deer bone,
a bird’s beard and the skeleton hand of Rose of Sharon, my hair
studded with water bubbles. I never forgot the mother,
I knew what she liked: wood for the fire, tea after supper, tic-tac-toe,
a grocery list. I learned to wait. Aunt You, can you see me when I throw
my voice into elms in the summer dark when the aurora reaches down
to the prairies and sends crackling ribbons of light back through the years
I cannot count? See me in the scholar’s robes I earned because I was judged
to belong. See me searching for poplars, for yarrow and chives and rhubarb.
Hear me humming the song I honed to a science
to seed the clouds and rise up like rain.
All I wanted, Aunt You, all.
Make yourself uncomfortable.
Surprise is the new listening.
I was born then whirled away,
the offspring to be named later.
The quaver broke like a porcelain
cup. A crow posed on a BFI bin,
tinfoil in her beak, and shook
his shiny head. I slipped from hand
to hand like a baby made of soap.
Enough, then. Start again. Accent
on first and third beats. I left
in a hurricane and crossed
the bridge over the fault line.
I came back to you this April
carrying antlers of pussy
willows that show their teeth,
wearing a yarrow crown.
Make yourself tall in my arms.
Mother, not mother,
dancing is the new speaking.
Tanis MacDonald (she/her) lives in southwestern Ontario, but is originally from the Canadian prairies. She teaches at Wilfrid Laurier University and is the author of Straggle: Adventures in Walking While Female and Mobile: poems. Recent work has appeared in Contemporary Verse 2, Grain, Event, and Atlantis.