Guest Poet Michelle Greer

Family Tree

I want to write proud words of my homeland,
The motley people of my past.
With similar hair and features and matching skintone
Let us gather at our maternal great-great-great-great-grandfather's
And all feel at home.

I have no likeness to my relatives.
My almost black hair a contrast to my mother's blond,
My father's giant towering above my short stature,
My rounded body 180 degrees from the angular, 
Gaunt figures of every other woman in the family.  
And for years they pretended not to notice.

I think I was twenty the first time I looked in the mirror.
My hair and eyes were not only dark, but my skin was different,
Yellowish-green, I felt like a Gypsy.
I began to look at people differently, 
To try to see who I might look like.

I went back to the papers that came with me.
Instructions?  AKC pedigree?  A letter of introduction?
They told of four different motherlands and one fatherland.
I spent years trying out each nationality, each one a perfect fit 
That never really looked right.

When my children inevitably ask of their proud heritage,
I just might make up our own stories, songs and myths.

June, 1999

Michelle Greer's Questions:

1) What if I took out "Instructions?" in the second to last stanza?

2) Second stanza, "never really looked right" or "never really FELT right"?

3) Does the word motley conjure up the image of colorful, or has the rock band influenced the words connotation forever?

The Albany Poetry Workshop