Seed of Mango, Seed of Maize

I saw one of the grandmothers only once
in a photograph.
Short and sturdy she was, a black black Carib
with a forehead wide as the sea
that kisses Port Elizabeth
and a nose broad as the nostrum of Admiralty Bay.
Breathing deeply,
her breath was fume of coconut and allspice,
mango and frangipani,
blackbird and blue sky,
was the isle of Bequia.
She conjured a daughter,
then jinxed another,
and they bedeviled five daughters between them,
and I am one of those flying fish.

The other grandmother I composed from myth
and half-told stories.
She was a red red Cheyenne—
scorched earth,
much chased—
sported a thick reed of brain
pulled off from her forehead,
wide as Dakota
before it was north and south.
She hisses warnings across ten, then ten times
ten more years to a son
who reshapes them for me
in my dreams, sometimes in my waking.
As flute, blue maize, dance of the sun, she comes, crow on the wing, singing up the ghosts,
and I am one of those—a ghost, singing.

Copyright © 2007 by Lynne Thompson. From Beg No Pardon (Perugia Press, 2007). Used with the permission of the poet.