Family Tree 2:1 A Census of Daughters
by Diamond Forde
& these are the daughters of the first man: daughters who dream of organza veils
& wake to pray. Daughters of breast milk. Daughters of strata. Daughters of
kaolin clay. Daughters under throw & wheel, daughters whose births bowl a
Thus Deborah—daughter of wombwork, daughter of war. Daughter who plaits
deft as dagwood, weaving blisters down her sisters’ scalps. Mother-wish for
sweetness, Deborah decks her bullies then blackens the rum cake with Alaga
Then Candi—next daughter. Daughter of hymn, of hallelujah, of hand-me-downs,
daughter whose bowed head didn’t lift for decades. Candi blinks & guitar strings
plink like coins in her ear well, their clatter cantoring a threadbare melody for
Thus Louise, daughter of harpsichord, aria daughter. Broadway & gospel warrior.
Daughter who brandished her blade-belly tongue, who cut the umbilical wart,
gaped the gap in its bruise-black mouth—then swore she saw her Mama gaze out.
Then Mary, star-tinseled daughter. Daughter whose eyelashes fan like a tarot deck.
Daughter of spirit realm, of night watch—sleepless tick: Mary scopes ghosts
strung like cobwebs in the corner. Mary be the God bride. Mary wear the veil.
what Valerie feel. Valerie be body. Valerie be young. Valerie be a tooth warmed in
a dusk-gored plum. She poses in flexing sand—bikini-brilliant, hot—but she don’t
touch the water. Swimming is not dreaming, is not flight, & Valerie is bird
she jumps & floats—an in-between—exactly what her mother wished for but
ain’t—all daughters the same: stardust. Daughters shimmer in circles, daughters
draw their mothers in. That’s what daughters be: a dark center gulping. They