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Goodnight Grandmother
by Maria Francesca

this house has stood for thirty years.

underneath it
before the house was born
the land here supported a factory.
before the factory a vacant field,
before the field a forest.

I have stood for thirty-eight.
the woman who stood
before I was born was a musician.
before the musician a laundress.
before the laundress a housemaid,
before the housemaid a slave.

the house does not reek of factory oil or sweat.
the factory did not bear the dust of the vacant field
or the living moisture of the forest.

I do not carry within me
the discipline of the musician
the determination of the laundress
the complacency of the housemaid
the bowed head of the slave.

but as I close my eyes at night
I feel the scorching sun on my skin,
the dust beneath my feet.

as I close my eyes at night
I hear the drum
I feel my calves tighten
I hear the laughter
of the woman who came before.


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