To My Great-Grandmother by Mo Fowler

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To My Great-Grandmother

Look, I can explain
why I still live in a city
where my walk home is rat droppings
neon mirage of Dunkin Donuts
commuter on the train
leather jacket pocket protecting
the irritated clink of bottles
from the ears of the conductor.
A city where I am only half
a dot on the map
where I could not get home in time
to see you close your eyes
on that pale plastic
hospital bed.

I can explain
why I am in love
with a girl who is not the background
or the boy
you wanted
who can’t put in me
the seeds of your legacy
whose family took up
more than half of the church
and sets a place for me Sunday nights.
A girl who traces my tattooed
memorial to your strength
when we lay in bed at night
asks me to tell her stories
of when you came
to your first
rat dropping city street
six kids sweating up to
your ashen feet in the sheets
you got a job cooking bread
then bought the bakery.
A girl I think about when I am
filling my car with gas
whose smile is as fast as yours
spent last weekend
with your recipe
so that I could come home at night
to history.

I can explain
this city is my new country
when I ran here the blood
in my legs remembered
how it felt to carry you across seas
these streets the battleground
where I prove I am strong enough
to be tied to your name
I carry on the tradition of
new beginnings
broken-back working days.
On Sundays I worship
I don’t know
I’m still figuring out where to point
my clasped hands.
I’m in this city
because you taught me to sprint
at my future.
And the girl
she’s my bakery.

Mo Fowler

I am a sophomore in college in Chicago studying Environmental Science, Studio Art, and how many weeks I can go without doing laundry. Stay Cool. :