epigenetics or: the names we were given

by nicole v basta

when anna stands between her father at her feet like barley
in spring and her mother, a seed, being carried away to a field
of disappearing, beneath her is land already fertilized by power

when the sky is green, stay inside, and remember how anna sailed
unnoticed in the ocean, the ship streaking the water red like ribbon
sewn at the factory on the shore— promise, a tender hem like a scar

after losing her hand, anna will marry into a name meaning fir tree
—evergreen, coniferous, pain always comes back like dust in a shadow
when the sun returns, remember there is a fire somewhere we cannot see

anna’s youngest marries into a name with two meanings
one: chimney builder—air from the flute passes down to the flames
the threat is in the house of our bodies and my mother is born

the other meaning of the name is onion—object like a fist
that once you cut open, well you know the rest, and when the truth
leaks out, she tries to contain it, my mother, who gave me the namesake

nicole v basta’s poems have found homes in Ploughshares, Waxwing, Plume, Crazyhorse, Ninth Letter, etc. She is the author of the chapbook V, the winner of The New School’s Annual Contest and the chapbook the next field over, forthcoming from Tolsun Books in 2022. More: nicolevbasta.com