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Swerve by Kelle Groom

I think of the man who sat
behind my grandmother's sister
in church and told her
the percentage of  Indian
in her blood calling it out
over the white pews.
I wonder what made
him want to count it
like coins or a grade.
I wish I could hear him
Now when I think her saying
that all of her  Wampanoag blood
in her body would fit in one finger,
 discounting the percentage it seemed, but why was she
such a historian, tracing the genealogy of the llast
Wampanoag  up to her own
children typing it all
on see through paper?
Maybe like me
she felt self conscious
caring about what we're made simpley being satisfied dressing our bodies
and driving them around.
Maybe she felt shy for loving someone
she'd never met, I mean
I do. I think of the knife
cutting into the flesh
and the fork carrying it
to your mouth
I always think of that, the sythe-like movement
single motion, a swerve.
I think of my relative,
the last Wampanoag in the town
walking the streets
with a dollar the town gave him.
Even then what would a dollar buy
a finger of land? If an Indian could have bought land
I think of walking into the almshouse.
The alms falling like figs from trees
something to gnaw on.
I think of the first time  of thanks
before it had a name
when it was just some
relatives of mine keeping
some relative of yours
alive through a cold winter
people stupid enough
to take food from a graveyard
food meant for the dead.


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