Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
The Fight for Freedom and Love on a City Sidewalk

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Hopping down the block like the sidewalk's on fire,
a puppety girl trips as her left foot flaps
and goes spastic airborne, fearless
of falling
though her mother dives under her to fix
it with her body and paranoid love.

The catching motion the mother produces from love:
Has a baby tumbled from a window of fire?
Her hijab and jilbab ripple but with pins are fixed
against any instance of flapping
exposure, of wings without sync, of falling,
the mother, the daughter, the suck and surge of fear.

That's the life of mothers of broken children: fear.
Mothers of rioting cities, husbands spat loveless
from bleached-bone buildings like tongued rice fall
and are flicked into the outrage of citizen fire.
But insurrection is not for the U.S. Here, we flap:
flags and garments in wind gusts, fucked-up synapses that don't fix.

Flags, broken brains cast aside unfixed
just bide, fabric, liney meat, ticking, waiting for fear
to reveal itself, giggling behind a flap,
a flag, skin, bandages, banners for love.
Mothers, dictators, kids on fire;
every body falls.

One fall
I learned my kid can't be fixed.
My brain was on fire.
I was throwing up with fear.
I was immolating with love
for my kid, who does that thing, that telltale flap

same as that marionette girl on the avenue, the flap
of her skinny fingers, splinter factions, falling,
leaping streetward? Don't crash your face, Love!
Mothers by muscular uterus fix,
hurling handfuls of gravel shouting, Fuck these thousand fears!
New York is on fire and nobody knows; Egypt, in front of everyone, is on fire.

I love my boy, how his toes flap.
The scarved mother loves the girl's grimace, and we fall
to fixing them; mother is love, work, and fear.


Jessica Steiner of Jackson Heights, Queens, writes the blog SWEET ANIMAL about her 6-year-old son with autism and her 4-year-old daughter with extreme attitude. She has a long-suffering husband and an overindulged pit bull.


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This poem is political and personal, beautifully written about the pains of loving a special needs child and saving that child from the pain of encountering the world. I love all the /f/ sounds: fix, flap, fear, fall, fire. My favorite line is "flags and garments in wind gusts, fucked-up synapses that don't fix."
I especially love the beautiful and true last stanza.
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