Felicia Mitchell
A Poem for Lost Ancestors

I wonder who they are, the missing links,
as I stare at a few small red strips on a DNA report
that reflects the history of the peopling of South Carolina
in my one genome.
All my ancestors travelled far to make me, I know,
and I know so many of them, already,
but not all of them.

There was an underground railroad.
I think there was another railroad
some of my ancestors had to travel too.
It ran not from south to north or east to west
but from generation to generation,
their lineage stitched in the pockets of genes
as invaluable as silver coins sewn into skirts.
With each child born, another coin spent,
colour in South Carolina determined who went in what door
or drank at what water fountain
and who stayed home to clean house
or who married whom and who moved
to Paris, or another neighbourhood, to start over.
I want somebody to take me there,
to that point of departure when
a trade was made, unfair as a fast train
spiriting away a girl coloured by a society’s prejudice and fear.
I close my eyes and see her waving from the metaphorical train,
waving at everyone who came before her as she passed on
and into me—so white she has become a ghost of herself.
I want to call back and call her Granny.