Passover in Jamaica
That time we buried the skull
in your backyard, moved aside compost—
slackened greens, chicken bones, pencil nubs,
hefts of coffee grounds still wadded in their filters—
to clear a spot for what you'd found. If the body
is a temple what is the skull, then—pulpit,
bimah, dais, pew with vacant gaze?
Here is the cemetery of our pasts,
the dot-to-dot of ancestry—Jamaica
to Florida, Russia to South Africa, Pskov
to Brownsville. The dots are skulls or arrows,
flow-charting our genes, all ancestors dead
and gone so we can make art in America.
In our palms we held them—antirrhinum,
snapdragon, dragon flower. There,
huddled together, immigrant growths—
yolky yellow, orange as ackee fruit or salt lox.
Told the blooms would make her appear
fascinating, your great-grandmother
concealed them on her thigh, just as
my grandmother hid American currency
rolled up in her vagina when she fled.
What to do except bury the pods in your yard?
Dropped by the handful, tiny skulls,
a mass flower grave of everyone gone
to seed. We wanted to write about it,
to have the words. What did they—do we—
hope, exactly, to be remembered or to be free?
Emily Franklin's work has been published or is forthcoming in the New York Times, The Rumpus, The Cincinnati Review, DIAGRAM, Mississippi Review, Passages North, Juked, and The Chattahoochee Review among other places as well as featured on National Public Radio, named notable by the Association of Jewish Libraries, and long-listed for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award. She recently completed her first poetry collection.