By Carolyn Norr
I followed her to the sea,
she placed ripe pineapples
in the frothing waves that had swallowed
her ancestors and were still swallowing.
The river led to the sea and was laced
with mine tailings
that silenced the frogs and swelled
her son’s bones till he burst.
I followed her to the courthouse to tell.
We knew what was going to happen.
I winced before the bullet hit.
It was her daughter who dragged her
to a quieter place and tended the wound,
chanting under her breath, mami, mami
her brow wet and salty.
I followed her through the broken streets
of the city, walking not fast, not slow
because she held also the hand of her nephew
and the scarves we wrapped around our faces
didn’t quite keep the sting of the gas out
so when tears dripped to the corners of our mouths
we swallowed them.
I followed her through the desert,
hung on her back and tried
not to be too heavy. You are not
too heavy. She told me. But
I could smell her sweat.
I sat with her in the patch of garden
she tended, along the side of the painted apartments
below the orange pine the bark beetles feasted on
the long hot winter. She brought buckets of water
to the seeds, and the seeds, after all
opened. She sighed.
I held her with a cord finer than a hair,
held her lightly in my womb
almost not touching.
I told her what was going to happen.
I warned her. I gave her a choice.
Nevertheless, she persisted.
Carolyn Norr is a mother and youth worker in Oakland, CA. In chewing over the recent accusation of persistence, she thought of the many women in her neighborhood and around the world who persist in seeking life. She also thought of her own children.