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. …
At the sink you fling your mane of golden hair / over your head, exposing bare shoulders, / one bandaged to keep the collarbone still / so its break can heal. I test the water / as I did when I lowered you, a baby, / into the sink for your bath. How awkward / this seems, a young man thrown back / on his mother’s care, and the tenderness / of that care flooding back on me.
Lent, and old French hymns decorate / the hours. These are sad songs, migrating / sorrow from oud to violin / in the ancestors of low notes, carrying echoes / of tabla, dropping among our voices like rain. // At home the garden stirs. Kingbirds fight / for scraps off the vine. I bruise / sweet peas urging them / upward on poles / trussed with chicken wire // before the heat comes / and withers their pastel bloom.
Cristi Donoso Best
With sticky palms to the ceiling / he offers you an old baby doll, its / yarn hair limp and eyes set back, / “Don’t cry, mama.” / The lawyer says it’s been “interrupted,” / like a phone call you make / on a Saturday to your sister, / as if after a pause, it will continue.
You shot out of me / like a / champagne cork—like Superman, your // grandmother said. Legs / straddled / open, a loved one holding each // up-raised foot, I saw / that same / shock flash between their faces when // you flew into the / doctor’s / arms.
Stacia M. Fleegal
They lifted my feet, murmured Trendelenburg in hushed chorus, raised and back-tipped my tentacled body to keep the baby from plopping out like an inkblot. Head rush, toes pinned and needling, someone stood on my cath line until I felt my bladder would bomb apart, and amid the new beeps and chaos I began to cry …
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.