Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Four a.m.

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Why is it the things you never think about at four in the afternoon
consume you at 4 a.m.? For instance why am I lying here just after the newspaper
bangs the front door asking myself how did I throw away all those old letters my mother's been sending

since college the ones telling me sun's streaming temp near 40 may snow
letters in which always a pot of soup is simmering time to use up
old vegetables
hundreds of recipes Better than Ketchup

Acorn Squash Chili Tofu Sticks in long hand
with side notes (cut sugar in half or substitute with cane juice)
letters catching me up with family news Uncle Willy's at a baseball conference

in Pensacola Carol Anne's expecting her fourth Lottie's touring the West
letters remind me to tell you the one about the cantaloupe
the potential wife needing to know the square root

of minus one (dad told it better than me) letters
I might've easily stuffed in bags wife & kids left him
at the peak of tree cutting season told her she had two choices:

a parachute or a raft letters which did pile up
was it in my twenties? Winston Sloan
put in a new lawn!
Even though

I was moving around a lot but then
I must've forgotten how about some unshelled nuts
a see-through unbreakable container
how much I'd need her

gotta go brush teeth run out to look at a house just an idea driveway too steep
asking 159,000
forgot I'd ever be a mother my son
at four a.m. mama? mama? The letters I'll write him.

This poem previously appeared in The Nebraska Review.

Martha Silano lives, mothers, writes and teaches in Seattle. She is the author of What the Truth Tastes Like (Nightshade 1999). Her work has also appeared widely, in such places as The Paris Review, Beloit Poetry Journal and in the anthology, American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon 2000). You can access her website at

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