Descent
by Victoria Tester

    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.






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