Maternal Lineage

By Laura Madeline Wiseman

She waits inside the optical illusion
of the meetinghouse. Men assemble

on the right side, while the other gender
sits with the children on the left.

She folds her hands in prayer.
Like others in the town, this church’s

design is simple, created in necessity,
lamps, windows, doors, a coal stove.

But here, men and women divide
the interior space by partition,

a wall which slides up and down
with effort. It retains the voices

of each separate sex. Silence
allows anyone, a minister, a man,

or woman to preach, to break
the morning hours they hold.

The partition divides the meetinghouse
and people into symmetrical copies.

She glances over the wooden barrier
as if into a mirror to see her reflection

distorted by mustache. A man
in black trousers and jacket sits.

He doesn’t notice her stare, the shock
echo in the lines around her eyes.

She sees the delusion of it,
the division between them.

She opens her hands, inhales.
She begins to speak.


Poet Laura Madeline Wiseman was artist-in-residence at Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in 2009. During her residency she wrote and recorded the poem "Maternal Lineage".

Last updated: November 2, 2017