Etheridge Knight

(1931 - 1991 / Mississippi)

The Idea Of Ancestry - Poem by Etheridge Knight

Taped to the wall of my cell are 47 pictures: 47 black
faces: my father, mother, grandmothers (1 dead), grand-
fathers (both dead), brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts,
cousins (1st and 2nd), nieces, and nephews.They stare
across the space at me sprawling on my bunk.I know
their dark eyes, they know mine.I know their style,
they know mine.I am all of them, they are all of me;
they are farmers, I am a thief, I am me, they are thee.

I have at one time or another been in love with my mother,
1 grandmother, 2 sisters, 2 aunts (1 went to the asylum),
and 5 cousins.I am now in love with a 7-yr-old niece
(she sends me letters in large block print, and
her picture is the only one that smiles at me).

I have the same name as 1 grandfather, 3 cousins, 3 nephews,
and 1 uncle. The uncle disappeared when he was 15, just took
off and caught a freight (they say).He's discussed each year
when the family has a reunion, he causes uneasiness in
the clan, he is an empty space.My father's mother, who is 93
and who keeps the Family Bible with everbody's birth dates
(and death dates) in it, always mentions him.There is no
place in her Bible for "whereabouts unknown."

Comments about The Idea Of Ancestry by Etheridge Knight

  • Rookie - 222 Points Verter Mcdougald (8/25/2015 9:21:00 PM)

    I can really feel this poem deep in my soul. I understand it on so many levels. I love it. Absolutely great work. (Report) Reply

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  • Gold Star - 37,962 Points Edward Kofi Louis (8/25/2015 4:47:00 AM)

    Nice work with the muse of your family tree. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 13,361 Points Ramesh T A (8/25/2015 2:28:00 AM)

    Another poem on ghost of elders depicted with awesome effect in this poem! (Report) Reply

  • Silver Star - 3,564 Points Curtis Johnson (8/25/2015 1:03:00 AM)

    Etheridge, I enjoyed reading your poem. The 47 faces on the wall, your 7 year old niece, and your 93 year old grandmother. I must say that these are your treasures, to be held close to your heart. Never let them fade, grow apart, or forget you. They are God's gifts to you. (Report) Reply

    Gold Star - 26,646 Points Kim Barney (8/25/2015 11:34:00 AM)

    Curtis, you are talking to someone who died in 1991!

  • Gold Star - 26,646 Points Kim Barney (8/25/2015 1:00:00 AM)

    M Hinton says the poem is actually twice as long as appears here. Why does PH do that to us? This was a fascinating poem until it stopped abruptly. I could certainly have read more of it. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie M Hinton (1/24/2005 9:13:00 PM)

    FYI: This poem is actually twice as long as appears here. (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: family, mother, father, birth, dark, death, sister, brother, smile

Poem Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003

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