Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood

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On the day you were born, your teita arrived
from Lebanon, with a suitcase full
of baby clothes. She had insisted that,
being the mother of the mother,
she should be the one
to buy the first baby girl’s wardrobe.
She showed me

the pink pajamas in which you’d eat
your first rice pudding, the fleece dress
you’d wear on your first birthday,
the burping cloth we'd wet and put on your forehead
the first time you were feverish.

Then out came the cotton belts,
to be wrapped around your waist,
and the coin that went under
the belts, to make sure your bellybutton didn’t
stick out. When I told her this wasn’t
necessary, she said, "Humor me, then,"
and undressed you.

Once the suitcase was empty, the clasp
wouldn’t close again. We lifted it to the top
of a closet, filled it with unused blankets.
It’s probably there now, stubbornly
open, as if something invisible
is still pouring from it, as if telling us
that some things, once unlocked,
can never be contained again.

Zeina Hashem Beck is a Lebanese poet whose first poetry collection, titled To Live in Autumn, won the 2013 Backwaters Prize, judged by poet Lola Haskins, was a runner-up for the Julie Suk Award, and was included on Split This Rock’s list of recommended poetry books for 2014. She’s been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, Nimrod, Tampa Review, Rattle, The Common, Magma, and Mslexia, among others. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Dubai, where she regularly performs her poetry and runs PUNCH, a poetry and open mic collective. You can follow her on Twitter (@zeinabeck) or Facebook (

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Poignant and beautiful. I adore the image of that suitcase still pouring out the love that was packed into it with the baby clothes, as if to remind you that the original source of that love is cannot be contained or exhausted; it is boundless, infinite, and has nothing to do with time and space. Thank you!
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