Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
What the Instructions Said

No comments

The branches forgot to bloom green, instead leafed
yellow, then browned by July, when wildfires bloomed
across the hummocks. She spent so many summers
with a hose and a rake and grass seed, but earth
resisted, she resisted, dirt parsed with moss and clover.
Now November, the first snow falls wickedly. She is tired of tired.
She is tired of things unfinished: books, promises, dishes—
a butterfly pavilion holds four chrysalises on her counter.
She has little faith they will find their wings to unfold.
Yesterday, she read instructions, trimmed away silk threads
so the creatures would not entangle. When it jiggled,
her heart quickened with the possibility of flight.
Her girl child watched the waggle with glee; it was working!
Then it stopped. Lay still. Lifeless? Who could say.

Now she runs, bearded moss hangs from trees, hangs
from her head as she snags her way through the forest.
Her flip-flops trip over roots, her toes are numb with slush.
Oh, things unfinished. She hears her girls crying her home,
but she can’t go, won’t go, her heart is a wildfire—
her shoulders pull back into paper wings, her legs stretch into a tuck
and she’s looking through the trees for a place to set flight.


Mercedes O’Leary earned her MFA from New England College, with an emphasis in poetry. She is the recipient of the Lois Cranston Poetry Prize from Calyx Press, and her chapbook, Flutter to the Light, was a semi-finalist for the 2014 Concrete Wolf competition.  Her poetry and reviews have appeared in Web Del Sol Review of Books, The Mindful Word, Great River Review, and are forthcoming in Anthem Journal. She lives in Homer, Alaska.

More from

Comments are now closed for this piece.