Family Fictions

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Poets don’t lie; they just fictionalize, to protect the innocent and the guilty alike. The poet’s faithful lyre, subtly dissonant, slightly off-key. Hence, these poems, unreliable as to fact, surely imaginative, approaching the truth—with many sideways glances down verdant dead ends—making myths from out of the clear air, they may appear to be something other than they are.

From Part I: The Female Line: My Grandmother

My grandfather,

buying from and selling to
anyone and everyone,
cursing them all—

cursing the French in the vulgar Dutch of Durban    gutters;
cursing the English in gutter French;
cursing the Chinese in pidgin English;
cursing the Dutch, no doubt, in pidgin Chinese;

cursing the Protestants for their piety;
cursing the Catholics for their Pope;
cursing the Muslims for their modesty;
cursing the Jews for their Law;
cursing the gods for all religions, everywhere;

cursing the cold, the heat, the snow, the sun;
cursing the hills, his horses, the dust,
and every other driver;

cursing the rain when it delayed, and the rain when    it hurried on;
cursing the land for not making way for him,
and the sea for not standing still;

cursing the planet he was born on,
and the star he was born under;

cursing his wife for her ancestors, when he wasn’t
cursing her ancestors for his wife;

cursing his children for avoiding him, after
cursing them for getting in his way;

cursing his servants for their subservience, before
cursing them for their insolence;

cursing the cook who cursed him back, and
cursing the cook who didn’t.

Cursing contrariwise and inside out;
cursing widdershins and back again;
cursing in contradiction to, and
cursing contrapuntally
fame, fortune, luck, and his own
damned stupidity.