Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
This Word

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I have something to tell you
my daughter says
at four, long legs angled
like a mantis prayer
over hot pink purslane,
grimace big as summer
corn. Kindergarten is the moon.

Emma said this word.

I’ve counted your words
like miles—first they drooled
on carpet, crawled knee
to hardwood, shook the shuttered
house morning
and night. They rolled under
couch, stampeded
toward bedtime, sung sweet
as cacophony,
crows, cackles, gaggles of geese
rising north.

Now the whispered pierce
of an arrow
through trees you climb
with abandon—someone else’s knife
into bark. Not names
in a heart, rope swing
over creek, a shout
for you to come home
because it’s dinner and a day
still breathing
through screened windows. I find no balance

in explaining
what this word means, how this word
finds me wolfian and baring
teeth, ready
to hunt the little girl who traded
asshole
for your jump rope, to shake
ponytail and bones,
to see what other words
fall out, to bury them
deep in the earth. My daughter listens
close, chooses
a pink cowboy hat, asks
for bubbles in the yard.


Michelle Lee is an associate professor of literature, fiction writing, and composition at Daytona State College on the coast of Florida.  She’s been an editor for academic and literary publications, has published across genres, and was honored with a Pushcart Prize nomination. Most recently, her poetry and short fiction was featured in the anthology, All We Can Hold, by Sage Hill Press, as well as Gingerbread House and Spry Literary Journal. More is forthcoming from Dying Dahlia, LitBreak, and Hypertrophic.


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I love this poem, the language, the imagery, the emotions. Thank you
Thank you, Marianne, for reading poetry, supporting poets, and leaving such a kind comment!
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