Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
if i have a daughter who is anything like me

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if i have a daughter who is
anything like me—
dark hair, light eyes,
full cheeks, crooked nose,
rose lips, restless hands—

if she is anything like me—
the way i am like my mother,
the way my mother is an echo
of my grandmother—
if she is oh you must be leta's daughter

and aren't you a spitting image
of your mother
if my daughter is anything like me,
will our strong genes carry this voice—
this you aren't good enough

the lessen yourself, quiet yourself
the diminish, shrink, disappear?
will i give her the voice inside me,
inside my mother,
inside my grandmother?

if i have a daughter
who is anything like me,
will she fight men,
battle mirrors,
war against herself?

if i give my daughter this shared name—
the one i carry, the one my mother
and her mother and her mother all carry—
the how is this pronounced, ma'am?
the could you please spell that for me?—

the one that four, five, six
generations of women
passed down to their daughters,
who swore they would not do the same,
before breathing life into the name once more—

will our name be a weight
pressing on her chest?
will she feel in this name
our shared depravity of oxygen—
will the name suffocate her?

if i have a daughter who is
anything like me,
with pieces and shards
of me inside her DNA,
i know what she will feel—

in her wide thighs,
in the folds of skin on
her imperfect stomach,
in the starless sky
sunset will leave in her mind.

if she is like me,
the chore of breathing
will exhaust her—
the way it exhausted me,
as it drained my mother,
my grandmother.

but—

but.

if she is anything like me,
i will show her my body—
the way my mother didn't show me,
the way my grandmother
failed to show my mother—
like it is a storybook.
i will read her my life
through the lines on my skin
and the width of my middle.

if i have a daughter,
if she is anything like me,
—or even if she isn’t—
i will speak of the weight—
of men, of mirrors,
of herself—
not as an enemy,
but as a comrade,
a friend.

and maybe—

maybe.

if she is anything like me—
this namesake daughter of mine—
like trees in fall,
we'll shed the name's darkness,
tracing our mirror images
in the light left behind.


Leta Rebecca Cunningham, an essayist and poet, is an MFA student at Pacific University and a graduate of the University of North Texas. Her essay “My Mother’s Bread” has been awarded 1st place at both the UNT Scholar’s Day Conference and the Mayborn Creative Nonfiction Conference. She has also been published in Ten Spurs Magazine and The North Texas Review. You can be assured that all her work is done while she lays in bed with her dog and eats dark chocolate.


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