A Poem for My Great-Great Grandmother

In yesterday’s post, “Looking for Love and Finding it in our Foremothers”, I talked about my discovery of the lives of my Great Grandmother, Susan Bean, and her parents, Martha and Thomas Bean. I spoke about the love that I imagined Martha and Thomas Bean had for each other. Below, is a poem I wrote for Martha Bean.

Martha Don’t you Moan

For my Great-Great Grandmother, Martha Bean

I heard you speak to me from the tobacco fields you worked

and gave birth in

time and time again.

Your voice came to me;

your words poetic

and spoken in the cadence of your mother’s West African tongue.

You whispered so sweetly

the name of your lover

your husband

my forefather

who walked in the night,

passed the unspeakable,

passed the unthinkable,

passed the unimaginable . . .

passed narratives told only in the dark

and passed stories forgotten by morning

(because the memories hurt too much when spoken aloud).

He showed up enough times to make your belly swollen

one, two, three, four



on the nights he couldn’t make it,

you closed your eyes and breathed in air

you imagined he shared only a few miles



He came back.

He always came back.

He always came back

until 1864,

when he didn’t have to leave


Copyright 2011 Christie Williams