past down

come from a place where poverty is a given.
where large families are grown in small homes. 
children curl small to sleep on cushions and the story 
of touch unfolds before it can be understood. 

the ability to read is not a given
the ability to think is seen a miracle. 

neither of my parents knew home as place. 
i’d struggle to define their home at all. perhaps 
lack: the definition passed down to me. 

i never heard my father speak of my mother’s mother, 
though i can hear his tone as he does so. 

silence, often, is a gift. 

my mother has never been estranged from her family 
yet i grew up thinking it small, negligible. 
not sprawling, as it was. and if not reaching, at least waiting. 

what is estrangement without a name? i suppose: distance. 

when i learned what the empty plot of land in my grandma’s
backyard was, i was mystified. i thought lightning. or a curse. 

instead, learned my father’s brother stumbled home 
drunk and the place went up in smoke. metal twisting. 
money wasted. bruises blooming. a door shutting silently. 
i couldn’t tell you how long it’s been since i spoke to my uncle. 

estrangement without a name: distance. my father’s father is not 
his father. both of his have died. i am counting the days until mine 
does. do you think me cruel? 

what is a father who never had children? 
the man i named grandfather only after he passed. the man 

my father hated for the sin of being loved by his mother. 
my father’s father died at a point i have no knowledge of. 
my father’s father in nothing but name died when i was five. 
my first understanding of hatred, named fear. i don’t know 

how old i was when my grandfather died. i don’t remember 
the last time i saw him. i don’t remember the last words 
we spoke. i don’t know if i ever told him i loved him. 

memory is a creature who knows only how to swim. i struggle 
to keep up underwater. 

i wonder what my grandma did with owen’s 
binoculars. his bird books. i wonder what happened 
to his apiary after he died. i have a single jar of honey 
left from him. i savored it while he was living, 
knowing i could have more whenever i wanted. 

if only i asked. i tasted it rarely. so precious. so afraid of waste. 
i haven’t opened it since his death. it’s beginning to crystallize. 

what is the point of a gift not utilized? sentiment. fear. missing: 
as in emotion, though i suppose as in state of being as well.


BEE LB is an array of letters, bound to impulse; a writer creating delicate connections. they have called any number of places home; currently, a single yellow wall in Michigan. they have been published in Revolute Lit, After the Pause, JAKE, and Roanoke Review, among others. they are the 2022 winner of FOLIO’s Editor’s Prize for Poetry as well as the Bea Gonzalez Prize for Poetry. their portfolio can be found at