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Mother of Mothers - poem and video

Mother of Mothers

When a brave woman's out walking

she's Mistress Life's spitting image

(Michel-Ange Hyppolite)

The faces of mothers of mothers,

their cheekbones gleaming against

taut skins; their eyes glazed

with the scarring of so much loss.

In Haiti, the mothers

of mothers have lamented for so

long—all that is left is the

sturdy presence of grace,

the wide open heart of knowing

how much a casket weighs, how

it feels on the open palm.

The mothers of mothers

march through the congregation

while the children of men

clap their hands, beat

tambourines, scratch the grater

and sing the flat harmony

that shivers the air.

Beneath a cascade of flame yellow

and red flamboyants,

she stalks the outskirts of the

feet worn worship ground—

the outer limits of the congregation

where the weeds and stones

have accumulated, here, where

the excavation of rubble takes

us as far as weary arms

and the creaky wheel barrow

can go.

These women draw a pattern

of circles with their heavy planted

feet, their arms raised high, their

voices continuing with greater

ceremony and occasion;

that conversation that began

with Jesus at four in the morning.

Oh, the mothers of mothers

who know too well the hottest

sorrow—the broken bodies

of children, the boy who covers

a jaw full of maggots, and the

tall lanky son, whose spine

gives under the weight of concrete

before he is pulled out,

laid under the soft blue light

of a wayside clinic, waiting

to go; and quietly, with the flies

returning to his skin, he is

still, though he must wait

there until dusk, before they

notice, before a procession

of mothers leads the body out

into the night, and mother of

mother, she hears her child

wake, look around, and speak:

"How nice the air is out here,"

before he dies, this time for good.

Mothers of mothers,

in your bandana and with your

holy testament, you must

draw the line of defense

around the beleaguered souls,

and speak a torrent of curses

on the beast lurking in the shadows.– Kwame Dawes