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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 8: June 2021
Poem: 198 words
By Megan Nevels

Self-Portrait as Ancestry.com

I am half known, 
the spitting image of my mother 
and the daily practice of 
“so that’s where I get that from.” 
I am stories passed down 
from my grandmother 
of cotton farms in Oklahoma. 

But the other half. 
The other half is open and empty and hollow. 
I am the never-ending use 
of the search bar 
and how many different ways 
can I ask this question. 

I am the rabbit hole of records: 

I am the monthly payment of $19.99 
to recognize my father’s smile 
in a middle school yearbook photo. 
I am newspaper clippings 
from small towns across America. 

I am a “transient from Texas” 
and a two-time bank robber. 
I am other people’s searches 
that lead me to 
other sisters. 

I am the report from the coroner’s office, 
and the gap I can’t fill 
between leaving and dying. 

I am questions I could never ask my mother 
and the discovery of a different last name. 
I am the cancellation of service 
and the frantic saving of documents. 
I am the carefully chosen words 
in a conversation full of silence.


Megan Nevels
Issue 8, June 2021

has been a featured playwright and spoken word artist at various festivals and events in Los Angeles, Claremont, Durban, and Cape Town. She has a B.A. in Theatre Performance from Pitzer College and an M.F.A in Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities from the University of Texas at Austin. Her MFA thesis, “OUR Stories of L.A.: Youth Constructing Counter-Narratives through Devised Performance,” received the top thesis award at the University of Texas at Austin and a national research award from the American Alliance for Theatre Education (AATE). Megan currently lives in Los Angeles where she is the Associate Education Director for a global civil rights organization.

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