382: “My Mother Is A Pool” (Kamau Brathwaite)

“The ancient watercourses of my island
echo of river.  trickle.  worn stone
the sunken voice of flitter inching its pattern to the sea
memory of foam. fossil. erased beaches high above the eaten

boulders of st philip  .  my mother is a pool

once there was trail glass. tinkle of stream into gullies
the harbour river navigable for miles […]

and my mother rains upon the island

w/ her loud voices
w/ her grey hairs
w/ her green love”
                -Kamau Brathwaite, in Ancestors

                I don’t like family trees. Family trees essentialize me. The way all the branches lead down through the generations, it feels (to me, at least) like the picture is suggesting I’m uniquely important. I’m somehow what previous generations were moving toward. I don’t think that’s true. I don’t like imagining it that way, with all the lives of my ancestors narrowing down to my life. And anyway, the family trees I’ve seen remove blood relationships from all the different kinds of love and family relationships. The story of my family, even if it was a story, wouldn’t be complete without Trystan and Jessalyn and Randy, without Nancy and Ali and Nina, without Michael and Roger and Fin and Dusty and Adrian, and, and, and, and none of them would ‘go’ on ‘my’ family tree.
                How else might I picture ancestors, family, community?
                Lately, instead of lineage—which suggests a line—my friend and I have been playing with the word “weaveage”—all the interwoveness through which I’m tied. I like that. And I love Brathwaite’s images. “My mother is a pool.” What if I picture a lake? Instead of solidly growing upward, water washes, mixes, moves, wraps all around. What if we picture ourselves as a ripple in the ocean, or better, a twist in deep currents, with other swirls of water above and below and sometimes going through us? “My mother rains upon the island / w/ her loud voices / w/ her grey hairs / w/ her green love.” What if the wash of our family community—a wash we’re always part of, as someone’s brother, sister, child, someone’s great-grandchild, someone’s friend, someone’s support—is more like the rain?

[If you want more thoughts about all the voices inside one voice, I have an article out this week over at The Collective.]

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