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My Mother

It took decades
most of my life
and all of hers
to understand

I sat in the bathtub
little body cringing
as her eyes narrowed
her face strangely stern
the shampoo
the scrubbing
harder and harder
hands and nails
strong and determined
my head turtling down
trying not to cry out
for here it never helped

The secret was
the poor people of
Dunmor, Kentucky
whose old were bent like toothpicks
a place where young heads
perhaps her own
had gone unscrubbed
with animal effect

In memory of this
a peculiar, loving form
of class struggle was
again and again
upon my own unsuspecting head

— Marcus Rediker
April 28, 1999