Matriline

Photo by Julianna Reidell

By Julianna Reidell

Great-Great-Great Grandmother: Egy 

bones 

bled, 

skin 

seeped, 

a soul 

slipped 

from cracked 

lips: 

And she passed, leaving kettő 

to carry her name 

— but not her story — 

over the sea. 

Great-Great Grandmother: Kettő 

fled like a fairy tale, for 

stepmother’s pinches can’t reach 

across the atlantic 

from the Old Country 

… but daring yet plain girls are only servants, not heirs, to the kingdom, and 

hips and heart are already planning their ache as she begs that money be allowed for food, 

precious, and necessary for all the children, swollen up inside her, but instead it goes to men 

who play at dice, 

and cards, 

and cheat. 

Great-Grandmother: Három 

Older sister makes them move up, 

but when older sister dies from her parasite they send her back, 

down south-side,

to rest. 

The first to notice her has a car, 

but the car isn’t the one that gives her a son to raise, with no place but home to call her own. Second is suave, 

a master in the art of nonchalance 

and from him are produced two more 

for her mother to rear, 

for she must work, 

while her men disappear. 

… but she lives on and on, 

until the deserters are dust, 

until Hungarian flops heavy on her tongue, and három becomes merely 

three. 

Grandmother: Négy 

never quite learns that 

times three does not a charm make: 

how to differentiate 

lonely, and 

alone, and 

free. 

accepts too little, needs too much, and 

never stops trying to give — won’t, until Öt and Hat will watch another monarch butterfly, flap from the life-plane: 

indescribable kindness, 

forced to close her eyes. 

Mother: Öt 

the trouble 

with inestimable wealth, 

arises – nothing – 

certainly not boys with bows or books –

ever come close 

to what she deserves. 

Only Hat is left to wonder, 

too, 

whether anyone has ever 

even 

tried. 

Hat: The Finale 

Mother Egy’s name 

clicks, 

but her tongue 

resembles more a mess of stripped wire than a womb. … can’t fathom why a line of 

women who fought produced 

a girl who thrives 

in a 

fae 

world. 

And considering a dread of intimacy, 

She knows — 

what I know — 

that there will never be another, 

never Hét.

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