The Fourth Book of Alice Called                                                   

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
mother’s will.

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.
Mary sees  

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

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