Ancestral Poem


My ancestors are nearer
than albums of pictures
I tread on heels thrust
into broken-down slippers

My mother’s womb impulsed
harvests perpetually. She
deeply breathed country air
when she laboured me.

The pattern woven by my
father’s hands lulled me
to sleep. Certain actions
moved me so: my father

When my father planted
his thoughts took flight.
He did not need to think.
The ritual was ingrained
in the blood, embedded
in the centuries of dirt
beneath his fingernails
encased in the memories
of his race.

(Yet the whiplash of my
father’s wrath rever-
berated days in my
mind with the inten-
sity of tuning forks.
He did not think.
My mother stunned wept
and prayed Father
Forgive Them knowing not
what she prayed for.)

One day I did not pray.

A gloss of sunlight through
the leaves betrayed me so.
Abstracted me from rituals.
And discarded prayers and
disproven myths
confirmed me freedom.

Now against the rhythms
of subway trains my
heartbeats still drum
worksongs. Some wheels
sing freedom. The others

Still, if I could balance
water on my head I can
juggle worlds
on my shoulders.

* This was published in Olive’s first poetry book, Talking of Trees.