p
o
e
m
s

When I was a teenager, I made her the enemy.
She worked third shift and after my father and sister
drifted to sleep, I’d call my boyfriend and tell him how awful
my mother was—how she chided me for not getting
all the dust off her figurines, how she thought my shirt
was too tight and wouldn’t let me leave the house
until I changed. I realize now I wanted that boyfriend
to save me, but save me from what? I was a drama queen
and my mom was on Vicodin for all her aches
from lifting patients at the hospital. I thought then
I loved my father more. He never disciplined me
except when I’d aggravate my mother to the point
that she complained. Once when I wanted
a maxi coat because all the other girls had one,
my father said name five girls and I realized no one
had a maxi coat except popular Becky, a classmate
I thought I couldn’t stand. Now I realize I admired
her fashion sense, her long slender body which was nothing
like mine. I hated Andy but only because he ignored me.
I thought I loved my boyfriend David but maybe
that was only because he liked me first. I suppose I loved
Andy and I suppose I wanted to be Becky, not my mother
who worked third shift, who told me feminism was a crock—
it doesn’t mean that women can do anything,
it’s just that they must do everything
. I was haughty
reading Gloria Steinem and told my mother
it was up to her to make my father do half the housework
which she knew would never happen. I broke a vase
hoping she’d take the dusting chore away from me and my father
turned the whites pink the one time she asked him
to do laundry. Why didn’t I help my mother? Why did I
want to be the opposite of her? Unburdened by a husband
and children, a traditional woman’s back-breaking job
of a nurse? I went as far away as I could from my mother—
traveling the world, writing poetry, making sure to never
have children, to never replicate an ungrateful me.
Now I would do anything to take away her pain,
her small body curled in the remote controlled chair
that pushes her up and out to a standing position
where I am there to catch her with a wheelchair.
Now I am doing everything to make of her a friend.

Denise Duhamel’s most recent books are Scald (Pitt Poetry Series) and, in conjunction with Julie Marie Wade, The Unrhymables: Collaborations in Prose (Noctuary Press).

You Might Also Enjoy

Trespass

Kamilah Aisha Moon

-Galveston, TX What in the year of whose Lord
2019 to whom the concept
of mercy for everyone
is meaningless do. . .

poems

Further Reading

Heads Up: We recently updated our privacy policy to clarify how and why we collect personal data. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand this policy.