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It’s the first Friday of the month, and the Poetry Sisters are ba-ack. (And that is never not going to sound faintly ominous.) This month, we’re in sunny downtown Antarctica … or, at least I am; others may gone on to places where their brains were able to be more or less thawed. Nevertheless, this month, the Poetry Seven took on writing a variation on a Golden Shovel poem, that is, incorporating a single line from another person’s poem into one of our own. Myriad other poets may have done this assignment properly, by using the borrowed line’s words to end each of the words of your poem, but… mine simply wouldn’t work out like that.

It might have had to do with the line I chose from Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art, which was the poem Tricia selected for us this month. We’re all familiar with it and its theme of loss — and there are many lines which would have lent themselves to shaping my poem around loss. I… didn’t want to, for whatever reason. So the line I chose was places, and names, and where it was you meant, which is the most vague thing ever – but I felt like challenging myself.

Others poets have heeded the call to a challenge this month including Sara, with a rather ominous title, Tricia, who couldn’t decide on a line; Laura, who’s been “branching” out this week; Liz, who has traveled AND partied this week, Kelly, who could barely drag herself out of her new art studio long enough to put pen to paper, and Andi, who found a sled somewhere, and a Yeti to pull her back up to the top. She can’t be bothered to come in out of the snow just yet, but she’ll be back.


          1. a thing or event that existed before or logically precedes another.
          “some antecedents to the African novel might exist in Africa’s oral traditions”
precursor, forerunner, predecessor

ancestry sites hold just the highlights of
places and names, and where it was. You meant
to present it, your past’s territory –
but found just blank pages and nothing. No story.

Is DNA testing so worth our investing?
Gateway to the past! Splash with spit to come through!
those twenty-three pairs are
commodities, wares
and data determines percentage, not clues

what have we to show,
we seekers, who know we are remnants of
slavery’s chattel-bred schemes?
What else do we carry? Our truth’s ordinary –
are we really our ancestor’s wildest of dreams?

each beat of a heart is state-of-the-art
a voyage more vital than Mayflower’s sailing
no more handicap or blanks left on a map
your story begins where you choose its unveiling.

I’m not yet sure if I, er, should have challenged myself quite this thoroughly… but that’s the point of our little monthly excursions. It ironically follows the same theme I was discussing yesterday – despite me beginning this poem before I heard the latest story about an inquiry through Ancestry.com. Oh, the shocks and surprises in the careless delving into one’s familial structures. Digging into the past can undermine some foundations, so be careful what you look for, dear ones. We do not dwell within the lines of the past; we live in the now. Though your line – like mine – may have begun in darkness, it can still end in perfect light. The story begins where you choose to begin it.

Poetry Friday today is graciously hosted by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at the Poem Farm.