Behind a sterile blue curtain, the doctor announces: / It’s a bloodless extravagance! // Bird-legged and bruised, I am propped on feather pillows, / a chorus of nurses humming along with a string quartet. / They feed me morsels of freshwater mollusks by hand / and when I try to speak, my mouth snaps shut.
Carolyn Harris Zukowski
I think: What has happened to my voice? / but nod and take my leave, my face / dyslexic. I’’ve betrayed him with my reticence / to boast his extra-curricular abilities– // how he identifies each fungus, fruit, or flower, / plays the piano by ear, draws near-perfect suits / of armor, and knows how to coax / a slow worm into his calm, unshaking hand.
Her red pajama pants with stars and penguins / sprawl on top of the heap. Some penguins wear / ear muffs. SLEEP TIGHT chases itself around / the waistband. What if sleep, size 6, chased // and caught itself. I’m trying to say it’s laundry / day. I’m trying to say on my basement floor / there always grows a hated hill of tangled clothes / worn by those I love most fiercely.
In the pantry, jars in a row— / rapadura, unbleached flour, / white rice seems / to squirm up the glass. // To my inner edges, / one child clings / tight. // On the counter, mortar and pestle— / halves of one, they split the seeds, / pull fragrant / oil from husk. // Her cells were mine, / not mine: / In me.
I’m gonna die in the sea / I’m gonna die in the sea // my four-year-old sang sweetly / as he pulled his pajamas on. // Hours earlier, beside me on the couch, / he’d scrutinized my profile / full human—lines, pores, acne scars. / In that instant, I held no secrets.
Tiny thread of me, secret strand / of my selfish heart. Beautiful unspooling. / My new periphery. Shade trees now / in the field of my vision. / My carved-out ache, my hollowing / night-time mouth. My near- / drowning, my buoyant, / buoyant girl, my surfacing, / my breath, my sudden aerial / view. My half-moon evening, / my life-split.
My mother’s death moved through me / under the heat of lights. / Her face in every audience, / where I knew I had made her most proud. // My son is unvarnished at this age— / not yet interested in glances at girls, / packs of friends. / Not striving to be on every sports field, / not ready to dive into a dream.
Leslie Smith Townsend
I remember you—girl / in the pink-striped suit / with the solid pink ruffle / where / your toddler thighs begin, / eyes focused in concentration / as you listen to the words / I bend in half to say. You lean / forward, almost on your toes / planted in the gravelly sand, / tentative smile on your face, / ready to race, toss your / sun-bleached curls and gallop / across retreating waves / on a fog-shrouded beach.
Your hair comes in with a vengeance. / A tempestuous storm of twists and turns, / Bequeathed by your ancestral medley / Of Cameroon, England, and Barbados. / More hair than I’d ever seen on one little head. / Get that mess under control scold the grandmothers. / I comb and braid and oil. / I detangle, condition, repeat.
… I anger / at anything, broad or horned, / and when I yell it is not at you / or your small upturned beggar’s face. // It is for me, / begging, still, at thirty. / I want to make you cocoa and cuddle against / your acquiescence and your little Gap wool sweater / and tell you that you will be better / than all these many years of wasted worry, / but it doesn’t work like that. …
We publish poetry that has some element of the unexpected–whether it’s the language, the imagery, or the emotion—yet feels honest. Do you have a poem that acknowledges the intensity of motherhood? Read more about submitting your work here.