When I gather with the women of my blood.
I sit at their feet
My ears burning for their stories.
I want to listen closely, to not interfere or philosophize their words.
Who are these women raised in pine trees with red dirt on their feet?
Women who fished on bayous with secrets and ways that never made it to the banks.
When I went in search of my mother’s garden , I found my own. ” ~ alice walker
My mamma use to make her house, cobbled together with leftovers and punctuated by Pine sol.
She came from a woman, wild and strong with a fire spirit. A woman the color of deep red earth with yellow and gold running through her bones.
Her daughter, my mama, always felt like a sheep, a black sheep. She says, she lived most of her life, wooly, tongue-tied and perpetually trying to please the woman mama, who disappeared.
They lived together once, I lived with them, too.
Ebony body with red undertones sewed in my bones I watched with closed eyes. We lived closely in a little house, bodies and bones crushed against the pine boards and white walls. Surrounded by an old house and rotting with untold stories and secrets.
She, my mama, went crazy with grief and the weight of silence. Her life rolled itself up in a duffle bag , found a back room and festered. Her web of discontent, touched and bruised each day by grandmother’s voice, resentful and too sharp to her ears, her heart.
She went mad, my grandma, left alone in the woods with too many mouths to feed and a weeping heart.
They both said things through the phone line but never to one another and never to face.
I made my way through the snippets of stories, sad and hungry for the lost roots that sat neglected under our feet. Wishing for words and actions that were bigger than the cedar of Lebanon that keep our porch company. The foundations shook and hell and rain made dents in our bodies but our stories held tightly to the underbelly, afraid of day.
And that was the way it was for a while
However, love and time have a way of ripping wounds open and pouring salve in the saltiest of places. With dis-ease and the smell of death on our tongues, we come back to the thin parts. Our insides rotting, seeping bile and blood into the streams of our possibility.
We come here and find the house ripped to the seams and bulging with wildflowers.
Wild women sad.
Wild women mad.
Wild woman taking the red and black dirt to their bodies, feasting on the stories that broke their backs and severed their tongues.
There are new generations, even inside of my cold womb, climbing free and asking us to lean into the narratives of our lives.
Little eyes, wide and brown with wonder, who one day will learn of the complications of these women, us women, in a blurb, or catch the snatches of a story under the coffee table and burn them to memory.
But we three. We are born anew, each time we open our mouths and sing the songs in our bellies.
We women, born from mon. a woman the color of clay on a summer’s days. A woman who married jack. Jack, a man as black and cool as the coal that grew down from the house. A man’s whose daddy’s daddy is buried in an unmarked grave with other bodies once held captive and chained to earth. A man whose people chose to stay on the land after Juneteenth, and the world fled. A man born of hope that the land would finally redeem them and give them more than hardship and dirty feet they knew.
It gave them, jack and mon. 15 children and wild and broken spirits. They sowed these spirits into their children, who became wild and wonderful. Their children sowed wild and wonderful things into their flesh and blood. The cycle of sowing, tilling and harvest endless under the Texas skies tighten by the bible‘s belt and jim crow’s legacy.
To me, my grandmother was not the wildest of all. She was a just complicated woman. A woman ahead of in her time. A woman craving a life bigger than she had ever seen or felt picking peas under the searing sun but not having the insides strong enough to confront the secrets and stones rooting in her marrow and life. Imperfect but still rolling in holy water, she taught me life. Her daughter’s eyes bewildered by her thirsty love for the smallest part of her own arms.
Grandma of my dreams and heart, is the woman who taught me how to fish, to garden, to walk softly, to be creative in my spirit and my actions and that I was loveable no matter what.
Her womb was our catalyst, housing the wombs of mama women, slave dreams and freedom workers. our home. Her hands made hot water cornbread and greens cooked with pork fat. Her arms in the fall smelled like pecans and sweet potato pie. Her body was a temple for coffee and cigarettes, for too long but even with a Newport in her mouth, she showed me psalms in motion and berries spots in the summer. She gave me a love that still fills my stomach with mercy.
Her daughter, my mother doesn’t really know this woman or recall her ways but she is learning to love the old frail woman in front of her. Her mama darken with struggle and laugh lines and reminding her of herself. But I am remembering them both. My mama teaching me to whistle and hunt for sweet grass. Her rage and pain still coloring too loudly in my childhood but her heart open and searching always reminding me of my own.
In time who knows what we will remember or tell. Maybe no one will ever know all the stories and the parts that make them sing and moan. Maybe we can recall these women, living still in our bloods and bodies and can remember them proudly as they are, we are : wild wonderful. Maybe time will bring pieces of us back, each in her own voice and me in mine, wild.
Keishua Arthur is a former corporate librarian and life-long scribbler living in the D.C. metro area. She is a lover of morning light, a visual storyteller, a word lover and tea addict. She can be found chasing after her toddler, trying not to fuss at her kooky cat, and writing really long posts on Instagram. Her passions include social justice, spiritual advocacy, literacy and body positivity. She can be found on online at The Lovely Quiet.