We are the grandmothers of poetry.
Looking at us you don’t see anything
but graying hair and work-worn hands.
You think we’re harmless. You don’t know
we hide machetes in our book bags;
our pens are whetted scythes.
We are the omas who carry memories sharp as razors
in our pockets. We never forget the past. Be careful
if you don’t want it carved on your forehead.
We are the obaachan who see through pretense.
Do not imagine our bifocals blind us to injustice.
We refuse to palliate with pretty phrases.
We are the abuelas who believe walls foolish,
fences small-minded. We snip chain links
into little pieces with our wire-cutting words.
We are the bibi who simmer and stew and stir.
Our love is fierce. Because we understand
souls need nourishment, we ladle out hope.
We are the bubbes who wield cell phones,
tablets, laptops, knowing our work is urgent.
We must bear witness to terror and beauty.
We are the elders who value every voice;
each one adds to the swell of ancient song.
Do not underestimate our power. We will not be quiet.
A native Californian, Patricia L Hamilton is a professor of English in Jackson, Tennessee. She won the Rash Award for Poetry in 2015. Her debut volume of poetry is The Distance to Nightfall (Main Street Rag Publishing).