Monday, May 30, 2011


Susan Duncan

I find they’d been neighbors on Fourth Street,
a garden, perhaps only a fence between.
But here
on the microfilm of the 1850 Springfield census,
they’re separated by just two lines:
David Grayston, preacher
Abraham Lincoln, lawyer
Footnote, that’s all, to a pedigree
whose pyramid of neat boxes has room alone
for my family’s birth dates, spouses, gravesites.

No place for the neighbors’.

Just a stair-stepping, very tidy
from father to child.
A careful sidestepping of the disorderly
waged beyond the boxes:
secession, sedition, emancipation,

In my next row down
hometowns and cemeteries shift west
one state.
Joplin’s 1920 census shows
George Grayston, lawyer
lived on Elm Street with
John Baker, preacher
Richard Smith, druggist
Henry Jackson, shopkeeper

Again, I have no boxes for the neighbors.

But they wanted to be nameless
as on that night—
in the interest of the neighborhood—
they pulled on white hoods
and bathed the Grayston porch in torchlight.

Genealogy was previously published in THEMA Literary Journal, Summer 2008.


Susan Duncan has an MBA in arts management from the University of California, Los Angeles. Having made her living in performing arts administration and arts philanthropy for many years, she is presently an independent consultant with a performing and visual arts clientele. She has served as executive director for San Francisco’s long-running musical comedy phenomenon Beach Blanket Babylon, the al fresco California Shakespeare Theater, and the Grammy-winning, all-male vocal ensemble Chanticleer.

Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Atlanta Review, Compass Rose, the G.W. Review, Iodine Poetry Journal, The MacGuffin, OmniArts, Poem, River Oak Review, THEMA, and The Yalobusha Review.

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