Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Penny Alchemy

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Four decades before recycling's a trend,
a symbol of three green arrows
shooting each other, Mother exerted
each Bounty towel five times before
its tatters, writhing from the kitchen
fan's whir, could lay to rest in trash:
catch a grape juice dribble
from a baby's mouth, then the
table, clear a counter fuming
with onion tears, sink clotted
blind with potato eyes,
floor green-poxed with Palmolive.
At last, the trashcan runny
with curry. She wielded
a system of five-fold use.

Clipped Super-Saver coupons
banked unspent pennies
for her children. Washed and filled
meat trays, produce cartons,
jelly jars, and soda bottles again
and again 'til they groaned, broken.
Tupperware, already paid, she shrugged.

In her backyard, shells scattered
from the morning's boiled eggs
made compost for the crocuses
transplanted from Mother's Day
gifts. Irises from a Get Well pot
someone else tossed flourished
in her hands. So lovely, cannot
throw away, she pinched dead
leaves. Yellow finches crowded her
garden, fluttered a singing crown.

Mother watched without words my
years stretch without a man, no
need for a dowry home grown from
towels and coupons. She muttered,
Daughter needs a car, not a man.
The Saturn car dealer gulped
air, coughed when she refused his
loanʼs interest. Instead, her wrists
pulled two perforating checks. Her
smile spanned the room, touched
me; our tears glittered more than
the gold sedan in the driveway.

In my dreams, she shimmers alive;
magic walks a gown of spun copper,
a train of gold roses, a singing cloud
of birds. She is jeweled with stained-glass
echoes of children's laughter, unseen
scores and scores of grandchildren.


Currently teaching at Savannah College of Art and Design, Mary Chi-Whi Kim has published in The New York Times Magazine and literary journals including Boxcar Poetry Review and others, and won two poem commissions from The Ohio State University’s Multicultural Center. Her poetry chapbook, Silken Purse (2005), was published by Pudding House Press; her multi-genre book, Karma Suture, garnered an Honorable Mention in the 2007 Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Books Contest.


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