Of Bloodlines and Such
She carries her lineage in the
small of her back, just above
the bustle which would surely
be part of her attire, were she
of their day, her ancestors.
Mayflower women are proud,
even haughty, never naughty;
and if so, seldom caught (perish
the thought of the “madam”
in New York City, years ago).
They are of noble blood and
starchy stock. They gather in
Upper East Side ballrooms to
show off their new jewelry.
They are drinkers of tea who
find delicate delight in light
lunches: scones and fruit.
To admire them is to pay
homage to everything that
built America: Robbing and
enslaving indigenous people
and Africans by way of “trade,”
insider stock tips, country clubs
with signs discouraging Jews,
the Junior League, whining
about illegals while employing
them to do yard work for no
real money. I should know.
My father’s ancestors arrived
aboard the Mayflower, and
I’m still trying to live it down.
I shall never wear DAR prim
white gloves; never parade in
fancy hats; and certainly, I shall
never forget that, when my
mother’s family came to these
shores, they were met by signs:
No Irish Need Apply.
© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Trifecta, who asked for a poem about blood, specifically the definition which includes bloodlines, noble birth, and that sort of hogwash. My Aunt Caroline was a member of the DAR, the Mayflower Society, and all that other “Ladies Who Lunch” bunkum. She’d never have said “shit,” even if she had a mouthful – but she blithely exploited Spanish-speaking maids, thought the poor “lazy,” and had nothing good to say about anyone who wasn’t rich and “well-bred,” especially my mom’s “pigs-in-the-parlor” Irish relatives. They, in careful New England fashion, mocked my mother mercilessly (Dad didn’t notice; it takes a woman’s touch). Therefore, this is my present to Charlotte for Mother’s Day, this being my 21st without her brilliant presence. Also to Riley, who understands why being a snob is counterproductive – and for her, counter-intuitive.
I am my mother’s daughter, proud to be living proof that Black Irish Laughlins from Council Bluffs, Iowa, could have more empathy and common sense than all the Mayflower babes put together. As my Grandma Blanche said, “Show me a member of the DAR, and I’ll show you a woman who is frustrated, spoiled, and desperate.” I have nothing to add to that! Amy
May 8, 2013 at 4:35 pm
Well, I am English, Irish, Scots & Welsh ( as well as German, Dutch & Cherokee).
This is a very powerful, deeply felt poem. Well done.
Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
May 8, 2013 at 5:20 pm
I have problems with blood lineages as well, I took another twist, but to the same effect. Great write Amy 🙂
May 8, 2013 at 7:12 pm
I have often felt the same regarding my ancestry, my mother’s ancestors arrived on the Mayflower as well and we know how brutal the Europeans were to the Native Americans, it’s a hard pill to swallow when I think of this. My father was of Scottish and French ancestry, there’s sorrow there as well. Excellent write!
Sherry Blue Sky
May 8, 2013 at 7:35 pm
My great-Grandma came over from County Cork – we’re likely cousins, Amy! I resonated with every line of this poem. I often have great difficulty walking around in this white skin – the skin of the oppressor, especially among my beautiful First Nations friends who luckily see through my skin to my heart.
May 8, 2013 at 8:58 pm
Both sides of my family came here after Reconstructions. Alcoholic farmers from Italy, Germany, and England who mixed with Cherokee.
Hi, I’m kinda sorta white trash….but I like read and write.
Great poem as always,. You exude strength and quality.
May 9, 2013 at 12:53 am
“To admire them is to pay homage to everything that built America: Robbing and enslaving indigenous people…” Wow! Amazing stanza. Powerful and insightful poem. Thanks for sharing.
May 9, 2013 at 1:49 am
i didn’t know your family was in Iowa ~ my mother’s side of the family was in Des Moines. i was basically kidnapped by my mother and step-father and put on a plane to Des Moines on my sixteenth birthday. i never forgave them. though my daughter was born there and i’ve never regretted her birth for a second.
May 9, 2013 at 2:09 am
Excekkebt – poem and notes. Is DRA the same as DAR? Or am I missing some subtlety? Truly egalitarian societies are rare, but our experience in France leads us to believe that there is much much less snobbery here, and the UK is becoming far less class-ridden than it used to be.
Sharp Little Pencil
May 9, 2013 at 8:52 pm
Ooops… had my disgust with the NRA (National Rifle Association) in mind. Will fix. Thanks, as always, for gracefully pointing out my typos. You rock, Viv.
May 9, 2013 at 4:01 am
Elegant yet simple in language and filled with a quiet, emotional anger and sadness but retaining a sense of self and determination till the end.
I’m not a big poetry person but I enjoyed that quite a bit. Nicely done.
May 9, 2013 at 5:53 am
This is so clearly observed. As a Brit it is interesting to see from the other side. LM x
May 9, 2013 at 9:51 am
This fits the elegant image of the women of yesteryear, and the lines about prejudice offer a striking contrast.
May 9, 2013 at 11:31 am
I love your story below the piece as much as the piece itself. Both are exceptional!
May 9, 2013 at 5:22 pm
You go girl! This is a great poem — love that you don’t pull any punches. And I love the line: “noble blood and starchy stock” — brilliant description!
Kelly Garriott Waite (@kgwaite)
May 9, 2013 at 5:37 pm
This is a great post- I particularly like this line: “delicate delight in light
May 9, 2013 at 9:44 pm
This argument gets even more poignant when you live as an expat. The class lines of expats are cleanly divided according to country of origin. Still. Makes my head hurt.
Thank you for linking this powerful piece.
May 9, 2013 at 10:52 pm
I love how your poem describes the Mayflower women as refined and noble, but then you expose the ugly truth. The problem with bloodlines is the entitlement that often pollutes it. I like the quote from Grandma Blanche- very funny!
May 10, 2013 at 5:34 am
Flaming out from aristocracy to underdog. Cool trip, Amy!
btw, my dad once refused to buy property in Boston cause an (Irish) ancestor had lived there in squalor.
May 10, 2013 at 10:51 am
Oh! That first stanza! Fantastic!
May 10, 2013 at 2:56 pm
Quite the unveiling–great parlor trick 😉
May 16, 2013 at 5:17 am
So you and I both have Irish ancestors – no wonder I feel at home here! LOL