I am Brenda
Daughter of Teresa
Daughter of Mary Elizabeth
Daughter of Marya from Krakow, Poland

Marya came to this country at fourteen with her Joseph
They took up potato farming
I tout that peasant stock, stout, thick thighs
Wide feet and when I'm old, I'll probably be fat

Marya, my Babcia, had old glass eyes
A tight bun of gray hair, sharp jabbing chin whiskers
Faded powdery moth wing cotton dresses
Dialect muttered through toothless spaces

Marya moved with deliberate motions like a sloth
Her crooked fingers resting still between motion
Her eyes blinked and her head bobbed ever so slightly
To the rhythm of her metronome heart

At family feasts I watched potato peels drop
As thin as tracing paper from her knife
I learned to snip just tips of green beans
And wondered about the scrap pail beside the sink

A detective, I questioned the elders
Snooped about until they laughed
How she continued to feed the pigs
She no longer owned

Cousins, aunts and uncles gathered those times
A birthday for three or more always we celebrated
Except for Babcia, hers the only one I cannot recall
In the early years when that mattered to a child

Babcia lit candles around a statue of the Blessed Mother Mary
Switched on electric lights only when darkness settled inside
She sewed dollar bills into the hems of her dresses
Once, she pushed three rolled one-dollar bills into my hand

I pressed my cheek to hers
And was pricked by those whiskers
Then rushed to the amazed gazes of her children
Grandchildren and great-grandchildren

I raced to the corner store and bought a golden rose petal bracelet
With a blue glass gemstone in the center
For the cost of three U.S. American dollars
I flaunted that treasure for all to see

Babcia died at 96 or a 100 years old
No one certain the year of her February 29th birth
The great-grandchildren argued whose presence was required
The oldest male chosen so he could carry the casket

Mother Scrooge, they called her
As they ripped the hems of her dresses
Lifting the mattress they found 10's and 20's laid out
Like a sheet of stamps

I crept into her sacred shrine and clutched Mary
From a bored out crevice I retrieved the 50's and 100's
Offering them up as payment for the statue
They accepted in their frenzy

Many years now Mother Mary sits on my bureau
A reminder that I am Brenda
With the sentience of the peasant immigrant

Brenda O'Connor

Copyright © Brenda O'Connor
March 1998

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Copyright © 1998 A Small Garlic Press. All rights reserved.
Created 1998/1/19. Updated last on 2000/7/17.