Facebook Twitter

The idea of ancestry after Etheridge Knight

A poem

SHARE The idea of ancestry after Etheridge Knight
Harry_Campbell_forest.jpg

Harry Campbell for the Deseret News

I am in a sweet place 

standing in Millcreek 

on a road 

in its canyon 

and this sweet place 

has also been the sweet place 

of my people 

I am staring 

into the water 

my grandmother fished 

with a rod and a line 

I am standing 

near the head 

of a timber trail 

felled by grandfather’s 

grandfather 

I am listening 

to the aspen 

its green coins 

singing in the wind 

and I know it sang 

just like this 

for them 

I am standing 

right at the center 

of its singing 

the same sound 

heard by black bears 

or the calf of a moose 

lying even sweeter 

in the yarrow 

showing we can be moonless 

and shining in wildflower 

I know this timber 

was once a house 

my mother’s grandmother’s 

mother’s hammer in hand 

everything 

throttling backward 

toward me 

through time 

a timber roof 

that has kept the frost 

from coming in 

and stinging my babies 

we made that 

for ourselves 

I consider choosing 

there are times 

when it is a joy 

to remember 

I like to think about my people 

drinking fresh buttermilk 

from the chosen farms 

of their other people 

all of us gazing 

back at the house 

framed by our future knowing 

filling up on fresh tomatoes 

and after 

maybe lying like the silk calf 

in the deerwood and the aster 

and never-ending

Excerpted from “Golden Ax” by Rio Cortez. Copyright 2022 by Rio Cortez. Published by arrangement with Penguin Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

This story appears in the January/February issue of Deseret MagazineLearn more about how to subscribe.