Ancestry (poem)


In seventh grade, my science teacher
taught us about genetics:

How the curves of our chins and tongues
created inverted mountains or tacos
fresh and ready from your mother
on Sundays after mass, her hands
floured with love and devotion,

Those same hands
which pushed through waters
against earth like leavening dough
as one leaves the homeland
for the beautiful country
basked in sunshine and good wine.

Living in a beautiful country,
it’s living proof that our histories
weren’t beautiful to start:
low wages and low weight
from days serving canteen
to teenagers who don’t know
what it’s like to starve,

Or long hours at the lab
feeding mice when all you want
is to feed your child who’s too young
to understand why mom comes home
after bedtime, gone in the morning.

My ancestors might not have been
founding fathers
of my beautiful country,
but they had pride in theirs,
their heritage to pass on
to us trying to find ourselves
on the Ancestry test
for our next science project,
finding nothing.

I don’t need a test to prove my heritage:
I know them through stories
from my mother
and her mother,
still making dough after Mass
or feeding mice in labs
wishing that her child
won’t go hungry again.

— The Finicky Cynic

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