Lineages

(Listen to Audio)

I am.
I am from
Leinen and Nigon,
from Chamberlin and Hoy.
I am from Clemens and Chatfield,
from Surdam, Sumner, Smith, Shade, Mastick, and Tomlinson too.
From Matthew, Isaac, Finley, and Charles. From Barbara, Eliza, Emily, and Nellie.
I am from soldiers who fought for the Union and from a nurse who tended them.
From singers, shopkeepers and teachers, from miners, writers, and preachers.
From wagon trains and railroads. From hard work and harder lives.
I am from cattle ranches and farmlands, from sowing and plowing and reaping.
From whiskey and ale, from betting and bad odds—and from the fall-out of it all.
I am from Noreen and Carl, who were like sin and prayer.
What ever in the world made those two think they could stay together?
I am from dime stores and small towns.
I am from sweet peas, green peas, and green tea.
I am from one-pot meals. From white beans, white bread, and white rice.
I am from holy water and rosaries, from Hail Mary and Our Father, from mea culpa.
I am from Little Women and Nancy Drew, from I’m a Little Teapot and The Hokey Pokey.
From pop-beads, pee-wees, paper dolls, pick-up-stix, skate keys, comic books, and jacks.
From coin collections and stamp collections and collections of cobalt blue glass bottles.
I am from bad kidneys, bad eyes, and bad blood.
I am also from a long line of sharp-tongued women.
From list makers, rule makers, and rule breakers—from umbrage and resentment.
From complaining, carping, and keeping score. From they don’t speak… we don’t speak…
Sometimes it seems impossible to do it differently, to break this invidious pattern of ours.
And sometimes it is easier to not even try.
I am from good intentions and unattended sorrows. From courage and hope and grace.
I am from extended arms, extended kindness, and extended family. I am grateful.
I am from a company of strangers, this family, of it, but not in it,
watching from the sidelines, taking notes, sifting through
our story and writing down our history, wondering
what directs us, what pokes us and prods us
and has us be who we are, questioning
how I fit into the whole catastrophe,
and, at the end of the day—
knowing I belong.
I am they.
I am me.
I am.

                                                                          Catherine (Clemens) Sevenau, Nov 2006

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