Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
When my four-year-old asks mama will me and Opal die one day


When my four-year-old asks mama will me and Opal die one day I want to say no
no you won’t but instead I don’t say anything
do we need to get old for that she is persistent this is what she wants
me to say but I can’t say that because it could be today
salmonella from a cantaloupe or e coli from a hamburger
my two-year-old pushes beads along colored wire her lips pursed
she picks one color at a time pushes up and down to line them up
she hears us but she is too small to ask questions


What was your childhood lacking the prompt of the day asks
paint sky words a stage on which to dance but how can I give them all
of that something would have to go maybe if I don’t exercise


What is wrong eHow says this is good to ask before the first counseling session
I made them stand still to get their hair fixed
I let their hair go unbrushed
I wake in the night and feel sad
in the day I am restless and drained
I call to check for messages but there are no new
messages at this time


Describe your feelings about the problem
I feel ______________________       _______________________
and __________________
List the reasons you are seeking help
when I read the older one asks mama why does your face look mad
and when daddy tells her I am a writer she says mama writes store lists
I see the younger one’s head slam down the concrete steps
her body mashed by a truck’s tires
I see her facedown in the tub
I read a news article about a pastor
who beat his teenage daughter with a shoe
during an argument about her going to a party
and I get it I side with him he pinned her arms and held her down
and then the shoe he just needed her to do what he said


Mama why is the sun so hot my four year old asks
it’s a ball of fire it’s actually a star the sun is not up yet it is still dark
already the bus is pulling children up the hill to our house first we see the light
blink open the trees then the sound of exhaust like a breath held long and let out
we walk toward it and wait when the door opens she will need to climb the steps by herself
at bedtime I will be ready to sing hush little baby when she stops me
to say mama today on the playground no one wanted to play with me
the sun was in my eyes mama I wish you were always with me


Tina Parker lives in Berea, KY, with her husband and two young daughters. Her full-length poetry collection Mother May I will be published by Sibling Rivalry Press in 2016. Individual poems have appeared in Rattle, PMS: poemmemoirstory, and The Collapsar, among others. To learn more about Tina, visit her website.

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A brave and excellent poem.
Honest and beautiful. Thank you.
Thank you, Sherry and Laurel!
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