My Mama’s Mama

by Cynthia Atkins

Swung in trees to write notes
on a branch, carved her name
into the cleft where the bark Y’s into
a myriad of decisions.  She wrote
in the margins between
        the crumbs and the broom.
While she was pickling cucumbers,
with the juice and the seeds
        with what remorse takes from us.
She wrote with a stick, the ink of fudge
from a wooden spoon. Her apron pockets
gathered into a behemoth of her secrets.
        She spoke into the gefilte fish,
and prayed with the yeast, as shadows
folded into the chiaroscuro of night.
I tell you, no one must ever know
that my mama’s mama
        wrote to hide her wounds.
Slapped silly for speaking
out of turn? —She wrote into
the feces on the diapers, into the bold
stink of life.  My mama’s mama wrote
       to be invisible, to disappear.
Like that lady at the circus cast
inside the magician’s black box.
She wrote to travel in time,
        this dinner table where her name
is scratched into wood, and I serve my family soup
on a snowy day, her print legible everywhere.