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Memoirs

Do you want a heartwarming story of when I was a girl?
Baby, I could spend days reminiscing ‘bout my 2-mile-wide world
Rows of white houses, and sidewalks, and big grassy backyards
But darling, ice cream and ballet class only gets me so far.
Is this what I am? That old American Dream?
What with my TVs, peanut butter, and designer jeans?

Honey, I come from the men who died long before my birth
But that didn’t stop them from leaving their families and sailing halfway across the earth
Is this what Great-grandfather pictured, a hundred years before
Twelve-hour days at the laundry, trying to send home a little more
Alone in a foreign country, just to give the unborn a foot in the door?

And grandmother, you always kissed me and tucked me in at night
Held my hand and watched my favorite films, made sure I was all right
Brought me teddy bears and candy, wiped my tears until they dried
Yet I came home each night to crayons, never knew what it means to cry.
I wasn’t there that winter morning, when planes flew overhead
And you slept trembling in a bomb shelter, while your neighbors were struck dead.
Were you scared to pack up and leave the city when your family decided to run
And your own grandmother jumped to grave in a cold lake, for fear of all the guns?

So yeah, that’s right, hun, I could tell you ‘bout my lunchbox days
My pigtailin’, jump-ropin’, swingsettin’ ways.
Or I could write about the innocent, gunned down in back alleys, how—
If I paint a pretty picture of that, would this be poetry now?
For every family story I can offer, there’s a hundred more from people I’ll never meet
While I was sipping soda cans, their broken liquor bottles lined the street
And while I cherished Mom’s homecooked soup, each ounce lovingly stirred
Families of sunken bones collapsed overseas, their cries never heard.

But these are stories I’ll never know, people I’ll never see—
All I know’s where I come from, not where I’m going.
And sweetie, in truth, all this so-called “poetry” I say
Is just a little girl’s words—do they make a difference in any way?
So I cling to the past—but then I let it go.
For it might be cliché, but what lies ahead—I’ll never know.
I swallow the stories of my blood, carry them with me always
God knows how much those before me made me who I am today—
But then I take a deep breath, look ahead, and am on my own way.



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