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And suddenly I wonder exactly how many times this had to happen
for both of us to be exactly here, exactly now.
How many generations of ancestors coupled at just the right time.
How many of them were happy, eager at the moment of conception.
How many consummating marriages. How many needed
more babies because the cards were stacked against them.
I wonder if any of the women were coerced, if the men were nervous,
telling themselves to wait, wait in some long-forgotten language.
All that sliding of skin, the gloss of sweat,
the small gasps escaping from the lips for centuries:
Our great-grandparents—in the Appalachian foothills in the First World War,
on a little farm in East Tennessee, somewhere near the Mississippi a few years later.
Then the grandparents, yours and mine, moving closer now—
Georgia, Alabama. And then my parents, in a trailer, I suppose
with a bunch of kittens in the blocks underneath,
red tractor and olive-lime Maverick parked out front.
And later, yours way out on the West Coast
smelling salt and sourdough. And then you.
You and me and right now.
Copyright 2021 Jessica Temple. From Daughters of Bone (Madville, 2021). Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author and Madville Publishing.
Jessica Temple grew up in Alabama and teaches at Alabama A&M University.