Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
On the Front Porch at Midnight


I sit on the steps in the dark
inhaling bee balm, peppermint, echinacea.
Night wind carries the odors of earth and rain.
If I lit a cigarette now I would enter the story
my oldest daughter wrote and gave me to read last week,
"The Scent of Rain and Tobacco," in which the heroine

falls in love with the corn she's planted in her farmer
husband's field. Later he will be her sacrifice. Or I would re-enter
a self decades younger, newly married, and trying to quit.

Yesterday she drove back to college sobbing
my mother is a bitch. Must've been something I said
about the story. Listen. She wanted me to listen, she said.

But I can barely hear myself these days. Even sitting here,
Next to soil and decaying leaves stirred by the breeze,
I don't know what or who to listen for. How do I make space

for both of us? She dares me to live a self I've long ago discarded.
C'mon, Mom, have a smoke, she taunted in Paris last year, a trip for just
the two of us. You know you want one. Instead I set my lips

like my own mother did. I still remember the thin raspberry line
as she sat across from me, more than half a lifetime ago,
daydreaming out the train window on our way to Philadelphia,

amethyst earrings dangling from beneath her smooth brown hair.
She had transformed herself for an outing with me--my father detested
lipstick. Her powder was too pale, the fur collar of her coat too black.

Was she remembering her art school days, or something
my father had said that just wouldn't settle. I didn't ask.
I already knew she wanted things she never got.

She stewed inside herself, making peace. I would not settle
ever, I thought, for a life that would make my mouth narrow.
Now I know more than I ever wanted to about that. And my daughter

demands from me a self. It's been halved and halved again in the mitosis
of mothering. Selves swarm above the blossoms,
medicinal roots send forth new shoots into the night air.

Ann Hostetler is the author of a volume of poetry, Empty Room with Light (Pandora Press 2002), which was a finalist for the Arlin G. Meyer Award in 2005, and the editor of A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry (Iowa 2003). Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines and journals including The American Scholar, Mid-America Poetry Review, The Cream City Review, and online in the Valparaiso Poetry Review, Dreamseeker Magazine, and Mennonite Life. Her poems also appear in the anthologies Making Poems: Forty Poems with Commentary by the Poets (SUNY Press 2010), Tongue Screws and Testimonies (Herald Press 2010), Common Wealth (PSU Press 2005), and Are You Experienced? (Iowa 2003). She is the mother of four and grandmother of two. She lives in Goshen, Indiana, where she is professor of English at Goshen College and serves as the web editor of the Center for Mennonite Writing Journal.

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Oh, thank you for this!
Wonderful, Ann! (And ditto for "After Birth.")
Wonderful poems, Ann. Thank you! Takes me back to being a new mother, and it's all still relevant to being a mother of adult duaghters. Rosemary Winslow
Beautiful and evocative. Love it.
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