Three Poems from Unspoken: An Inheritance of Words

from a memoir in poems dedicated to the author's mother, and to the memory of her grandmother. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Even trees have chronologies,

unspoken stories, annual rings a diary
of each year of life. Some of your stories

remain silent, too--you speak them
in other ways, passing them on to me;

not written on paper with ink,
they are recorded in my bones and veins,

bound in my skin. I undertand--
you don't have to say a word. Other times

you seem unfamiliar to me, just as in years
without summer certain rings of the tree

are missing--times when growth and strength
are made known only by cutting a cross section.


The cut of the dress takes me back
to the ones you used to sew,
shaped to your curved
hips, slim waist, seams and darts
at the bust and modest
necklines. I can still breathe in

the scent of Hoogie's Drygoods
as you choose Vogue patterns
mimicking photos
of Jackie O;

at home, you knelt on the floor,
layed the pattern out, tightly, tissue paper
pinned to wool, or Fortrel, me
propped up on spindle
elbows, watching as the puzzle

fit together. At the machine, your brow
furled, pins in the seams of your lips, fingers
nimble, you'd slip them out before the needle's
speedy approach, foot pressed to the pedal

like you were tailgating in your black
Chevrolet Corvair, but you were so careful;

there was always just enough
fabric left, your Singer humming a new
girl's 6X blouse, skirt or hair-band for me,
an accessory,

cut from the same cloth
as you altered the pattern, just a bit here
and there.

My Life Cannot be Grasped

"My life cannot be grasped as a singular totality."
--Paul Ricouer

A life cannot be grasped
as a singular totality. The story

of my death can only be told
by others; my beginning, only

by others. My birth belongs
to the history of my parents.

It is the story in the middle
that I will tell. Let me

share it with you, then ask you
if you will tell my ending

after I'm gone, if you will
be the one to tell the story of love.

About the Author

Connie T. Braun

Connie T. Braun instructs creative writing, and mentors undergraduate writers and editors, and has published two books of non-fiction and two poetry chapbooks along with journal articles andessays. Much of her writing is grounded in the war-refugee and immigrant experience of World War II, resonant today in her explorations of memory and witness, the silences and language of trauma,the sites of geographical and spiritual displacement and belonging, and the pervasive paradoxes inherent in being human. Her academic and personal essays, poetry, and reviews, appear in various journals and anthologies, and her poetry has been set to musical compositions. She is a full member of the League of Canadian Poets, among other writing associations, and lives in Vancouver.