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 i. 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 ii. 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 iii. 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 iv. 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 v. 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.