Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Summer Solstice

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For an evening we loosen our grip
on the girls, their bodies too sweaty
to hold. We find we are whole
without them, without their fathers
who have retreated to the far side
of the field. We count our fingers,
our toes, roll rum-soaked cherries
we've fished from the punch bowl
around our mouths and watch
our three girls strike the piñata
as it circles drunkenly around them.

They don't see how it hangs
by its neck,
off kilter from where their daddies
have strung it up. They reel
about and squeal with each twitch
of the stick. The dog barks in its pen,
maddened by the girls' blindness and this
animal that smells like no rabbit
it's ever seen. The stick swishes
and swishes until our smallest
girl connects, sends bits of crepe
paper flying. The girls take turns
beating the piñata until it splits
and spills its innards on the ground.
They scrabble in the dirt
in matching yellow dresses
then run to us --
sticky-mouthed, incandescent.

We find we are ready
to draw them in again, ready
to wash their faces, their hands
as we praise them
for their mercilessness.


Ashley Nissler’s work has appeared in Ladybug, Cricket, and Tar River Poetry. You can also find it online at Strange Horizons and Poemeleon. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and daughters.


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I love your last word. Once outside Binkley Church, we were celebrating with one of those pinatas where kids pull strings that (in theory) eventually lead to the pinata's opening. In this case, the Sunday school children were taking turns with each pull, squeeling as they tugged, hoping to be the one. It went on and on. Too long for 5 year olds. One kid found a stick and the others followed suit, knocking the hell out of that PC pinata, tossing sweets high and low.
I, too, love "mercilessness" as the end. A wonderful poem, great rhythm, feeling the action of beating and scrabbling and then the return to the mothers who are ready to "draw them in again." So good!
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