A Poem for Mud Woman and Mothers

Suzi Q. Smith lives with her brilliant daughter in Denver, Colorado. Her work has appeared in a few magazines and anthologies, and she lives her life writing, performing and teaching a bit of poetry and a bit of music.

Suzi Q. is also well-known as an Activist working with civil rights organizations, victims advocate organizations, arts organizations, peace organizations, youth organizations and more. In Denver, her work is presently focused on Slam Nuba, Denver Minor Disturbance Youth Poetry Slam, and Flobots.org. She is the founding Slammaster of Slam Nuba, and she serves on the Executive Council of Poetry Slam, Inc. 

A Poem for Mud Woman and Mothers is a unpublished and ekphrastic piece that was inspired by "Mud Woman Rolls On", a piece at Denver Art Museum.

 

1.  I Do Not Know How Many People it Has Taken to Make Me.

 My uncle, who is known to bring laughter,

once told me a story about my great-grandmother,

how she worked alongside her husband in the fields

with a swollen belly until the minute she went into labor,

at which point she went into the house,

gave birth to their baby, and had supper on the table

when her husband came inside that evening.

I thought this exaggeration of my uncle’s

was hilarious until I learned

that this story is true,

that I am made of such stories.

 

My grandmother, who remembers all the stories,

once told me about her Great Aunt Song,

of the Blackfoot tribe, who was kidnapped

and sold into slavery as a teenaged girl.

Aunt Song became a cautionary tale in our family

because of her insubordination

and the frequent beatings that she suffered. 

She never forgot that she was free as milkweed,

never bundled her pride in a basket of reeds

and sent it down the river for a better life,

never apologized for the strength in her jaw,

Aunt Song never broke.

 

My great-grandmother on my father’s side

raised 11 children during the depression.

Taught all of them to read and write poetry,

to play the piano, to sing.

We are still making music,

we will always have song.  

 

My great-great-grandmother

on my mother’s side

lost her husband suddenly to a fever

when their son was still new in the world.

She strapped her baby to her hip,

took to the cotton fields in Tennessee

until her weathered hands worked their way

to pull potatoes from a cold Colorado welcome.

We have called it home ever since.

 

My grandmother on my mother’s side,

a church-going woman (whose mother, I hear,

used to read tea leaves in the parlor),

raised 7 children

with needle and thread,

with wooden spoons and batter,

calling the corners and stitching them together,

folding the rhubarb in with the sugar.

We are always making something beautiful

out of what we can grow.

 

My grandmother on my father’s side,

has taught me nearly everything I know. 

Grandmothers, all of them, will live

always, in the mud of my flesh

and the earth of my bones.

We are forever.

 

2.  We Still Remember How to Make Things.

 

The first storytellers were women.

Gathered ‘round steaming cauldrons,

grinding mortar and pestle,

the medicine makers,

the kitchen witches,

the magic movers,

the balm brewers,

the mud women,

combing the earth for seeds to pass on to their daughters.

 

They found that cardamom, native to the evergreen forests in India,

is good to clean the blood, heal the mouth and throat, and lift depression.

The best secret a mother might whisper to her daughter

the night before she marries is that the spicy, citrus seed

is a well-respected aphrodisiac and will surely

bring her husband to task.

 

The mud women know all about cinnamon, popular since ancient Egypt

for treating coughs and aches, and while our ancestors

might not have called it anti-microbial, they knew good medicine

when they smelled it.

 

If you’ve ever sipped on tea made from ginger root,

you know it will save your life in winter. 

The mud women know this, too,

and how thyme helps us to breathe,

and how garlic cleans the blood

and everything else with it.