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Poetry & Art

Birthright

Great Grandma Kate hangs herself by a scarf in the kitchen and her body waits to be found by her daughter, her daughter’s husband and their young children. My mother and aunt are the wide-eyed witnesses of six and eight.

 

My grandmother June screams “Get her down, Tommy! Get her down!” like she’s only stuck in a tree and if he can just get a ladder tall enough to reach, he can carry her down to safety. 

 

Tommy unties her from the ceiling fan with gentle hands and sets her body on the linoleum floor.

 

I think of this as the moment the roots of a tree have reached the sturdiest point of their expansion. Anchored deep and hungry to borrow from the soil. It would take lifetimes to chop away at forty years of carving a path.

 

June spends her life in devotion to her mild-tempered husband. He preaches the word of God on Sunday mornings and has a soft spot for broken things.

 

Years later the two of them uncover an exchange of letters that unriddle her mother’s suicide.

 

“Kate, you know why I can’t come home”, it reads. The circumstances… What Kate never spoke of:

 

When Benjamin gets Kate pregnant, he already has a wife and kids. Another family in another state. As soon as she gives birth to her last, he abandons them. They’re left with no money and a lifetime of shame.

 

Kate stays alive just long enough to be a grandmother and June develops fears that on occasion come out the mouths of her surviving daughters.

 

In this story, pain does an excellent job of passing the bread to feed the family.

 

Trauma hangs heavy like a cold ghost in the pockets of our home. My blood runs thick with the will of broken women and my rite of passage is our codependency. My birthright is survival as a latch that works too well.

 

I am the conclusion to four generations of mirrors with hearts so tenacious, they stick to their loved ones like briars that won’t shake off. Surrender is a strength outside my bandwidth and you will not find me hitched to any more dead wagons. Those women are iron and I am only silver, too weak to forge again and again.

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by Jules Incorvaia

Professional crier and complainer

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