Not My Ancestors

By Bettina Judd

I, heiress of red embers
the fiercest of which burn the uncareful hand

See my one great grandmother what
had the misfortune of disciplining her husband

who thought he could come upside her
head about something or other.

Without missing a beat, she, damn physics,
wield a cast iron pot against his head.

This same short, blunt arm would nurse
twelve children, the youngest only two years 

before her own death. She willed nothing
but her blood. Stout bodied women

with heavy wants and hands, hearts overripe
and prone to leaking. Mama on my grandmother’s side

held a shotgun aimed to the head of any white man 
come up the road. Papa would greet him with one of his own 

just as unfriendly and kind under her sharp shooting eye.
I’ve never held a loaded gun, too afraid I might

turn it on myself. They had Jesus and a wood
burning stove. What do I know about protecting

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