Whatever happened to my grandmothers, their daughters?

Temperance and CharityPatience
and Ruth

Were they tested by their names, the wishes
of a Puritan parent, straightjacketed
into good behavior by the whiff of hellfire?

Waitstill and Obedience
rushing to light a candle, scrub a floor,
lower their eyes from the open door,
the passing feet of Ebenezer, Elijah.

Did their names foretell their
doom, as we’d call it, ten generations down?
What wings clipped and dreams deferred?

And by what stretch of
generosity or foolish gesture were they named
Freelove? Experience?
Saddled with such names
but no freedom, condemned to sin?
To doubt?

My heart clings tightest to
Silence, whose lips are sealed
by the centuries, by her stories
unheard. By the sibilance of her name
that cries out for a telling.

Julia Park Tracey


Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning poet, author, blogger and journalist. She was named Poet Laureate for the city of Alameda (CA) in 2014. Julia’s poetry has appeared most recently in Tiferet Journal, Daphne, Postcard Poems, and Yellow Chair Review. Her essays have appeared in Salon, Narratively, Redbook, and more. Her poetry Amaryllis: Collected Poems (2009, Scarlet Letter Press) is heading for a second edition. She is the author of six books. @juliaparktracey F|T|IG

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