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Chosen Ancestry

by Heather Weddington

It’s that little Irish potato farmer inside,
that won’t let me quit digging.
–my brother

  • We keep trying to tie it back: Ireland
  • of songs and poetry, of cliffs and ocean,
  • the ways in which I’ve longed for both,
  • the way I’d eat potatoes at every meal
  • if only I could, the way we must
  • remember biologically-speaking.
  • This is historically rooted: our
  • shared stubbornness, our willful ignorance.
  • Crops we sow never yielding enough to feed us.
  • The disease, the Blight they called it,
  • demolished crops in Belgium,
  • Holland, France, America. But Ireland
  • seemed the only land where people starved.
  • The land partitioned, divided again
  • and again amongst the wealthy, the foreign.
  • The problem lies in the metaphor. Potatoes
  • weren’t the favored crop, just the one that might
  • stuff the bellies of those with such tiny plots.
  • Of course we want to tie our fate with farmers.
  • Histories crop up in the present as questions
  • to which we can’t tend. And so we rake together
  • an ancestry from scraps: the prefix found
  • in maiden names, the fire in a father’s beard,
  • These are memories biology can’t recall.


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