Zedeka Poindexter

Poor Relations
 
Today is the funeral for one of the Strong daughters
Years ago one moved south and labored though packing houses and inner cities
The other stayed near family and provided her children every luxury
Like the last funeral we

Embrace delicately

Cry silently

Separate from habit

Maybe it takes being the poor relation to notice this
We are the folks who put water in the ketchup bottle
Know exactly how many miles is left after the fuel gage hits empty
And have been close enough to shit to recognize the look people toss its direction
In the land of the city cousins
The rules of politeness just don’t work the same
This sister we bury today died at home
Blood sugar out of control
Gangrene in the wound her well bred babies could not bring themselves to dress
And we are the poor relations
Who grieve silently enough not to embarrass the city folks
Then leave before the battle royal over property, possessions and insurance money
We may be broke as the Ten Commandments
But down here in the sticks

We survive through each other

When one of us is paid
We all eat
When one of us is sick
Everyone prays
When a child is born
We are all there to show them how to carry this tradition on
And when the sister who had nothing but Medicaid and a mortgage died
It was also at home
With my hand in hers
Telling her whatever world she chose to surrender to
We would say her name with a smile on our lips
Even as the family came through to tell us where she went wrong
And look uncomfortably at the too small house she fought to keep
The smell of us that’s causes you to lift your noses at family gatherings is the thickness of

this family

What keeps us together when your cultured values evaporate in the face of trouble
You smell the sweat of women who work like men in their absence
The rot of dying because we care for our sick
The joy of knowing we clean up good, but by hook or crook this family will make it
My grandmother taught me that
Which one our family lines are lowly
Something has got ya’ll confused
Believing hair care commercials and prime time sitcoms
Lost hold of the knowledge
Fat meat is greasy
Broccoli ain’t greens
And family is for more than the free shit when our elders die
Why is it only the bumpkins know this?
Us poor relations
Small town
Limited education
Pitied
Wrap you clucking tongue around this
We came from the same people
We aren’t poor and perfect
We know weed spots and holding cells
You are not corrupt and cold
Some of you believe in work and family
But there is this status shaped chasm between us
That only seems to widen every time we gather to pay respect
To the dead but never to each other
Making the poorest relations of all
The two generations of children raised across an abyss of class and accusations
Who don’t know what their family looks like
And have no feeling of solidarity beyond the knowledge we should all be grieving right

now

These women we buried were sisters
Blood and back up whenever needed
Never separated by more than a phone call
But we . . . don’t have each others’ numbers
Don’t call or know each others’ names
Just look at each other across caskets
Remembering the virtues of the family we lost
Forgetting we were all taught better than this.



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