I Wake with the Taste of What You Tasted: Agnes Smedley, 1892-1950

The night before the operation you said
“I don’t expect to die . . . but in case I do . . .” And then you did.

I was tightly coiled, held safe when you came apart
of a piece in Oxford, 1950.

I want to say we are sisters. Yes.
I want to share a present tense with you. A name.

I want to say we are sisters as temperature and wind, loneliness
among friends. The lines of a poem that do not come.

Learning to survive. Staying or returning
to survive.

Your political predictions went on without you,
your stone letters in the hand of a Chinese peasant general.

Pushing yourself back into memory,
you stared us down by the power of your Colorado earth.

Now I wake with the taste of what you tasted
in my mouth.

Misery when the call comes in to join, mesh,
submerge and reemerge in groups of men. The flowers of defeat.

Need, your circular letters open doors
to those who put them, unopened, on the “maybe” pile.

I wonder about my journals, Agnes,
who will take my salted tongue.

What time is it, please? Will the new encyclopedia
hold the necessary entry?

Deep in pockets I shove my fisted hands,
clenched images. Yan’an or Esteli.

People who did not look darker or smaller to us.
People. Their eyes open.

The lie comes home to sleep. No one forgets.
It happened on the first day of all our dreams.

:: Margaret Randall, in Calling Home: Working Class Women’s Writings (1990)

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