Her Heart Was Kept in an Oak Chest

I wrote this poem after reuniting with my biological family in Colombia for the second time. I stayed in Medellin, Colombia for 3 months. It took 11 years for me to be able to reunite with my biological family. At the age of 18 I met my biological father for the first time and my older brother too.

The day after returning home I went back to school. In one of my classes we watched a movie about the African women who grow Maiz as a way to live. It showed some of the issues regarding hybrid engineering seeds. How it is making it so that they cannot feed themselves and making them dependent upon engineered seeds that are sold at high prices. This poem puts these experiences together in one emotionally gripping expression. I hope you will take a look and leave me a comment. 

Audio Version here, below is the written version too.

Her heart was kept in an oak chest beneath old photos

her heart was kept in an oak chest beneath old photos because she’s forgotten what it’s like to live with a full stomach

she’s lost the future so she eats from the ground,  she scrapes empty memories off her plate because without the future all we have is is the children of ourselves.

Her skin is dark and dried because her roots have no access to water

her empty stomach has no nutrition, I remember watching her in one of my dreams, she was lost in her own mind, rolling around on the tile floor, her body swawing with the taste of bones on her tongue, her heart beating



sinking like an anchor to the bottom of the dark blue sea, she sank so deep I couldn’t see her,

but spirits talk to each other

and I could hear the desolate cry of her African heart, the empty fingers that had been shucked like corn and so now she has no grain.

I remember her because every time I open that oak chest I know the earth has been severed, trees being cut, people being barried like old photos, lost memories that we don’t remember, but remnants don’t dissipate they just petrify, they dry up, swaying back and forth to the flow of the ocean until hope dries it up. And then silence slips in and we put her away, toss her in that oak box and burry her face because it’s easier to keep our belongings in the corner of our rooms, it easier to want something new, so we forget that a tree once lived in that space.

I know what she felt when her hope sank because she had no seeds, no seeds of maiz, no seeds to feed her three children, nothing for her, a single mother without land, dirt, or seeds to plant her maiz. She was my mother, the woman who couldn’t live right because without maize the indigenous people can’t live, without that pride that fills you with thirst what can you eat?

A person without autonomy might as well be a vegetable, my mother became so hungry that eventually she became empty like a glass window that barely reflects reality, and then one day she just disappeared

because not even ghosts are invincible, a single mother in a third world country.

Her eyes look like that oak tree in my back yard, her memory sits hard on every structure of my existence, she’s like that table that supports this infrastructure of pseudo reality.

I remember her skinny body rocking in the hopeless wind like a hammock sitting out in the rain, a lonely cloud, a pregnant woman who carries life with a sense of duty but is treated like that oak tree that never got watered that is now my oak box for photos and memories I wish I didn’t have to see.

What more can I say about a picture that once captured a soul but now holds empty minutes, floating vertically the hour glass has been turned up right and the days are being sifted for the maize, like the women who make life and get discarded

the minutes are sitting frozen inside the pictures, staring at the photographs

all I see is eyes staring back

tears spilling on them

I’m a sad god

who wishes he never spent the 7th day resting.

2 thoughts on “Her Heart Was Kept in an Oak Chest

  1. hi luiscongdon,

    firstly, i am amazed to the lushness of your words in this poem. a fitting tribute to a mother, that against all odds have a dream of a distant freedom from poverty. there is an invisible touch to the heart, a tingling sensation to human conscience. i patronize this kind of poetry who make our inner eyes open wide to the truth.

    thanks for this kind of sensitivity. you did this poem justice.

  2. Luis, thank you for visiting my blog.

    Your blog and your poetry are very interesting. You have a lot to share. The world could use more of your sense of peace. I wish you much success and will check back to see how you are doing. Karen

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