for Julia Garland Murphy, my great-grandmother
When my forbears homesteaded northwest Detroit
to grow bushels of berries on brambles in fields,
grand wagon wheels rutted dirt avenues down
to the farmers’ booth market and riverside docks.
They had sailed in from Ireland, from Tralee and Cork
from Dublin, Clondalkin, the rough countryside,
to dig in long rows of Michigan peat
to bear hail storms and blight, typhoid and drought
till the lathery blossoms ruffled their dreams.
In black and white snapshots crackled in frames,
a fierce old lady in feathers and furs
lifts her chin to stare down all doubters.
In another view, in a cotton white apron,
she pulls on the reins of two fine drafthorses,
leads them out from the backyard barns
while lilacs crowd the house and clothesline.
One last picture holds the next generations
minus my mother, away then at school.
Her mother and her mother’s mother stand
with their menfolk, their children, their aunts—
My birthdate and I lie thirty years thence.
Not yet was I meant to walk acres of stumps,
not yet meant to find the farrier’s tools
nor to wander the furrows of straw dust and root.
Pia Taavila-Borsheim’s recent work has appeared in Threepenny Review, Wordgathering, 32 Poems, Measure, storySouth, Birmingham Poetry Review, The Bear River Review and The Southern Review, among others. Her collected poems, Moon on the Meadow, was published by Gallaudet University Press in 2008; a chapbook, Two Winters, was released by Finishing Line Press in 2011. Other poems have just appeared in such anthologies as The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish-American Poetry, and Deaf Lit Extravaganza, while forthcoming journals include Fjords Review, Blue Lyra Review and Boneback Mountain Review.