I am four generations removed from searing faith.
A faith craving sunlight from deep in the mines.
Faith enough to say yes. Yes.
To breach oceans--continents--kin.
To stare out at the strange desert sod and dig in.
Four generations from not looking back--
from looking up.
I am four generations removed from the seed.
I am three generations removed from mean labor.
From sprinkling and tamping dirt floors to pewter.
From arms knotted thick from sawing timber,
from milling flour and hauling water.
From fingers plunged into soil
that smelled of redemption or ruin.
A generation rooted in their own dirt at last
and reading the dry winds above it.
Three generations from bloodied callouses and dead babies--
from lean, hard hope.
I am three generations removed from the root.
I am two generations removed from want.
From shoes stuffed with newsprint against the cold--
From remade coats, darning eggs, and patched dungarees.
From milk and bread suppers
and canning every peach.
From the humiliation--the salvation--
of the WPA and the CCC
and kindly food left on the porch at Christmas.
From dreams snuffed by survival.
Two generations from tight rings of bad news--
from just hanging on.
I am two generations removed from the trunk.
I am one generation removed from ascent.
From the springboard, the boost up, the chance for more.
A generation of rising--
the degree, the nest egg, the place in the world.
Of scrimping and scraping and saving and building.
Of erasing the accent and mirroring new neighbors.
One generation from shaking the dirt off--
from clambering and climbing and striving.
I am one generation removed from the branch.
And here I am--
A blossoming wrested and wearily won--
their pretty prize.
I am the bloom of their dream of ease.
The mechanics and daily mercies--
my meat, my bed,
the sating of my whims--
Arrive without blister or blood or even thanks.
Their gift is my freedom to nod with this breeze or that.
To be a little smug from my lofty perspective--
to look down.
To be distanced from the very dirt that anchors me--
the history, the grit that holds me aloft.
My soft hands pray over my blessings
but the blood in the grace is theirs.
Cozy and coddled.
I am the generation removed.
But the next generation was their real reason--
their real gift to the world.
Bounty born and bearing their blessings
to amazon jungles
to congested marketplaces in Hong Kong, in Sana'a--
to huts on the African plain.
My children are their fruit.