Max Doesn’t Know
in his veins thrums the blood of genocide, the strength of survivors, my grandson, with his bright blue eyes, doesn’t know yet the costs his ancestors paid, how many died, blood spilled for gold, doesn’t realize those shining beads he holds with his chubby hands are corn tears dropped, silvery as coins, growing like wounded miracles to mark the path to Oklahoma.
He doesn’t know about the Guineamen, about human cargo, glistening black bodies broken in the holds, thousands thrown away like trash, thrashed and chewed by great gray Atlantic waves, their names written only in the foam still crawling up on to the shore.
He doesn’t know about the Great Starvation, mass graves, mothers curled around babies they couldn’t feed or save, unearthed outside Dublin, bones clicking like rosary beads beneath the cold white sky. He doesn’t know about coffin ships, the dead dragged out on boat hooks, tossed overboard, dreams drowning in the cries.
More, he doesn’t yet know of Dachau, or Auschwitz, the purging, flames of hate sending millions of souls plumed as smoke into the heavens. He can’t know how long the smell of burning flesh lingers, how numbers tattooed in blue ink on pale skin scar, never really fade, imprinting forever deep, even into dna.
He doesn’t know the bone wounding of hunger, the relentless drum of an angry fist, or the horrific insistence of crosses setting the night ablaze. He knows only the world through three year old eyes, that red car, this blue bus, his father’s strength, his mother’s loving touch.
I hold him in my lap, breathe in the ancestral light, the miracle of resilience, this child. In him, in every child, generations birthed into sight, but he doesn’t know he is their victory. I pull him close, whisper, you are the persistence of hope. He lifts his eyes to me and in them, I see creation. I see every soul, and weep, realizing, he does, in the way of angels, in fact, know.
Mary Carroll-Hackett is the author of eight collections of poetry: The Real Politics of Lipstick, Animal Soul, If We Could Know Our Bones, The Night I Heard Everything, Trailer Park Oracle, A Little Blood, A Little Rain, and Death for Beginners, released from Kelsey Books in October 2017. Her newest chapbook, (Un)Hinged, was just released Spring 2019. Mary teaches in the Creative Writing programs at Longwood University and with the low-residency MFA faculty at West Virginia Wesleyan. Mary is currently at work on a novel.
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