I come from people who would not forgive.
They were Spanish Protestants who ran like hell from Cortrai
to Holland and New Amsterdam,
damning the Inquisition,
and they were the Inquisition.
They were Puritans who painted their kitchens
_________in Connecticut and Massachusetts
the bright blue of angels, and led frail old women
to the gallows if their bones creaked against any trespass,
and they were also those cursing old women.
They were Scots and Welsh who dreamed their iron and arrows
like a thousand deaths of San Sebastian into the English army,
and they were the English army.
They were Indians, Potawatomi and Apache
_________who nearly laughed themselves to death
when they were taught to love their enemies,
and their enemies were also my people.
I too would rather laugh myself to death than die
at the hands of an enemy, even if he is my relative.
Or forgive anyone who's truly wronged me
or maybe only just slighted me
or anyone else in my family, or even a friend,
unless they're on their knees near my front porch
for at least one whole winter,
and even then, covered with sparrows.
And I am also those sparrows
and in this year of Nineteen Hundred and Ninety-nine,
I beg the Spirit of forgiveness to forgive me.