Toddler, 1939
Katherine Smith

Toddler, 1939

My great-grandparents belong to wind,
to cousins fighting over a house that’s only ink.

One great uncle still remembers, faintly,
the beautiful dining room in Antwerp, the Persian carpet

beneath his feet and hands, mama crying on the train south,
the white bean soup peasants fed them beside the tracks in Toulouse,

the rolling ship pulling out of the dock in Lisbon,
the woman who led him to his bed in Jamaica.

The third cousins fight for possession
of music their ancestors sang, effortless

ghosts tapping the light. Belonging is glassine
slick beneath the pooling ink.

It’s the apartment in Antwerp with its dusty books,
the crinkling of onion skin, fingers tapping on diamonds,

creaking floorboards under the soft knees,
mama’s breath quickening

at rough knocking at the door.

Katherine Smith

has contributed to Poetry, Cincinnati Review, Missouri Review, Ploughshares, Southern Review, and many other journals. Her short fiction has appeared in Fiction International and Gargoyle. Her first book, Argument by Design (Washington Writers’ Publishing House), appeared in 2003, and her second, Woman Alone on the Mountain (Iris Press), was published in 2014. She teaches at Montgomery College in Maryland.