Two Poems by Lizzy Sparks

These two poems by Lizzy Sparks explore the connections between our present selves and our family roots, examining both small-scale relationships within families and the weight of the entirety of human history…

by: Lizzy Sparks

i will become history too


whoever said there isn't life
after death
has never stumbled
upon a museum of history
in the hills of kentucky
where there is
a list of names
immigrants to somewhere
faces i can’t recognize
names that ring familiar
my ancestors lived here
beneath this same sun these same stars this same moon


but life after death is not just here, in the mountains
it is everywhere, all around us, if you know where to look:

in my leather jacket, passed down to me from my mother from her father from his mother
and the way it fits like it was made for me and

in my cousin’s smile, given to her from her mother from her mother from her mother
how their faces are mirror images of each other and

in my hands, small and delicate, the fingers short and stubby
as i hold my mother’s cousin’s dying hand: our hands are the same and


my aunt tells me, you know, your mother had those hands
those are the hands of the davis women
my hands connect me to mothers i never knew: i mourn
for the relatives i never knew. because when they say
you’re built like a davis woman
what they mean is
you are your ancestors’ made flesh
and you do not share their name but
their bones are your bones are their bones are


my ancestors:

the hands of children, pressed against cave walls
lifted by their parents so they could reach and

the bones of a young boy killed when vesuvius spat	
fire and clogging ash, clutching his pet dog and

the skull of an elderly stone age man, teeth rotten: yet he survived.
he was taken care of. he was loved so much so deeply

the way i love my limping dog, a metal plate between her bones
pain pills swallowed down with peanut butter and a head scratch


one day they will discover the ruins of my childhood home
her bones buried in the backyard beneath a headstone: bellamy, beautiful friend
and they will know how much we loved her, how much we cared for her.
they will write in their history books about us, about here, about the small
town where homo sapiens began to care for canis lupus familiaris

one day they will find my bones
buried deep in harlan county
the homeland i never knew
alongside my ancestors’ bones
the fillings in my teeth
my diet carved in the marrow
the leather jacket passed to me
from my great-grandmother
my hands—my hands—their hands

one day
i will become history too
my grandma hates dogs

my grandma hates dogs
she curses them beneath her breath
damn dogs! and threatens to send them to the pound
for yapping too much, for getting under her feet
when she’s frying greasy bacon, for leaving
muddy pawprints on the vinyl floor

but when winter is at its darkest
and the little ones come in
with balls of snow matted to their fur
she holds them, wrapped in towels,
and blow-dries the cold wet off of them:
they’re too little
the cold is too much for their old bones

but when the big one had surgery
she fretted over her like a night nurse
crying out at her every whimper—
oh i hate to see that old dog in pain
i know what it’s like to hurt that much

but when my grandma calls me when i’m away
the first thing she tells me is the dogs
have been their usual, fat and lazy
she sounds proud
your old big bear’s by the door
the little ones are in the living room
do you hear them barking?
they hear your voice

my grandma hates dogs,
but when i’m home she cuts fruit for me
when you’re gone the house is empty
she tells me, handing me a bowl
the dogs are glad you’re home

Lizzy Sparks is an English and creative writing major at Ohio State, where she has recently read for the annual Non/Fiction Prize and currently reads for The Journal. Her work appears in Sheepshead Review, JAKE, and is forthcoming elsewhere.

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