Daughters of the American Revolution

I.

My sister daughter mother
was a sluice, a foreign confidant,
a slice of pie, a gear that threw
its power out so each could have a turn.
My mother sister was the serving cup
who slaked the neighbor’s thirst.
My daughter mother sister was the first,
the second and the third.
My sister mother daughter’s pockets
held the commonest of birds,
and whosoever looked upon
my mother sister daughter
would confess, collapse, revive herself
within the fabrics of her dress.

II.

My mother sister daughter
was a legend in her youth.
Her satchels sagged with literature.
Her secrets stayed beneath her waves
a private nautilus of truth
that knew its place, that knew its use.
My mother sister daughter
paraded in the drive in skins
and feathers beaded into fringe.
My daughter mother sister
was a child whose big-eyed stare
took in what she could never name.
My sister daughter mother
was a mouse in a lion’s mane.

III.

My mother daughter sister
spoke in cadences of grace.
Her voice betrayed its origins.
(My sister daughter mother’s worth
was forged when pale consistency
was valued more than place).
And so the words her mother spoke
were put away—unfashionable lace.
My sister daughter mother
described herself infrequently
as slow to tremble, slower to quake
but my mother sister daughter
was a beam of light
who steadied her own wake.

*

Mary Austin Speaker is the author of Ceremony, winner of the 2012 Slope Editions book prize; The Bridge (Push Press 2011); 20 Love Poems for 10 Months (Ugly Duckling Presse 2012); and a collaborative play, written with her husband, poet Chris Martin. New poems have appeared in Boston Review, Jubilat, Forklift Ohio, and elsewhere, and her critical work can be found in Pleiades and Painted Bride Quarterly. She lives in Minneapolis, where she designs books for HarperCollins, Milkweed Editions, The Song Cave and others. She will teach at the Jackson Hole Writers Conference this June.

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