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For Jeanne MacDonald, b. 1910

Genealogy! They have a word
for the science of searching backwards for ourselves.
I mark annotations with a ruler and pencil-
lines like capillaries spider loose across the page.

Between generations, I water the begonias.
Leaves curl in like tongues, darkened, and
I never see them fall, but sweep them later,
palm into palm.
Across the way, a house is being razed.

The family gone, the view is hollow:
Painted squares of black have sucked away
A year of sun. I think of other fallings, here and there,
mothers and sons, sons and daughters,
A few from the outer branches.

The lines converge and disappear,
unprofessional stains appear, wayward ashes,
ancestors blown like heather
from the lowlands and moors to root again,
clasping their own distances,
far from me as the haunt of their keenings.

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