My master/father sent me up from South
Carolina to Boston as a nine-year-old.
My mother's illiterate silence has been a death.
I wonder if she still labors in his fields.
His sister, dutiful but cold as snow,
gave me a little room in her house, below
the stairs with the Irish servants, who hated me
for the fatal flaw in my genealogy.
For the first time in my life I am at home
in this bevy of scholars, my first family.
Here, the wallpapers welcome me into every room,
and the mirrors see me, not my pedigree.
My sisters, Jerusha, Emilia, Elizabeth ...
But Mama's unlettered silence is a death.
Marilyn Nelson, "Family" from Faster Than Light: New and Selected Poems, 1996-2011. Copyright © 2012 by Marilyn Nelson. Reprinted by permission of Marilyn Nelson.
Source: Faster Than Light: New and Selected Poems, 1996-2011
(Louisiana State University Press, 2012)