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Familiar and Distant

It’s ironic,
when asked to recall my family’s voice
my first thought is a threat
to literally put words in my head.
My great-aunt was a collector of knick-knacks
and curios,
and was also my default care-taker
while my mother worked.
Her West Indian and Panamanian heritage
was always betrayed by her voice,
her idioms.
She was caring of us,
but protective of her collections,
“An’ if you break it,
I’ll cut your initials
into your forehead
with the broken pieces.
I’ll do like so…”
She continued to mime the action
I am relieved never came to pass
despite the stunning number of pots
and vases
I destroyed in careless play.

Reminiscence of visiting my family in Panama

That I never really listened
to my family
never occurred to me before.
That my memories
of their voices
are a din of sounds,
not language.
And their words are divorced from the audible
to my recollection.
Mannerisms and attitudes stay
in well preserved packets of cognition,
but their phrases are not words to me.
Those phrases are meanings,
shadows of a trope.
“You have more luck than sense.”
They have told me.
Maybe this is what they saw.
Senses dulled to my inheritance of wisdoms
and just enough luck to survive without it.