Generations by Kristie Robin Johnson

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


I watched my mother die.
I watched my mother watch her
Mother die and before that I
Watched my grandmother watch
Her mother die.

Big Mama said
Hurt people hurt people

She wadded and rolled the
Idea around in between her

Tongue and cheek and
Teeth before she spit out

The words like the tobacco
She chewed. When Granny

Was a girl with an iron
Face and ashy knees

Big Mama taught her
Women’s work —

To cook, to launder,
To push his children

From her 15-year-old
Womb and ask for nothing

In return, to shell peas until
Her fingertips purpled,

To make macaroni and
Cheese by tunneling

A hole into steaming
Pasta and pouring into
It a mixture of flour,
Milk, salt, pepper,

Faint remembrances
Of his overworked fist

In her left eye, a secret
Prayer for the babies

(especially the girls),
A sour recollection

Of the misses commenting
On the remarkable

Cleanliness of her kids.
Granny never forgot.

More than anything
I remember the taut,
Tanned skin of their
Foreheads below my
Pressed lips. Somehow,
Sleep becomes a woman
After a life of selfless labor —
Lifting loads intended
For the backs of men,
Soldiering quiet through
Eras and movements and
Hurricanes like untasted
Honey in misplaced hives.

Photograph of Kristie Robin Johnson

Photograph of Kristie Robin Johnson

Kristie Robin Johnson is a native of Augusta, GA. She is currently enrolled in the MFA Creative Writing program at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, GA. Her work has appeared in Atlanta Free Speech and other local Georgia-based publications.