The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood
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Poetry by Elizabeth Lorde-Rollins

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Second November

Two years alive without you
day into night somehow winds a life.
Day into night in rooms where women are dying where
Mrs. Richman waits for the scary angel to come,
that last doctor who says no,
I don’t think you’re going
to make it this time.
She waits for her sons to come visit
the same ages we were
twenty eight and twenty nine,
old enough to lose their mother.

In rooms where women die and bring life
invoking your name into my face mask
I pray you’re proud of me
I wonder if I’ll ever be enough.

Jonathan got your brilliance with his violent birth
as sure as he grabbed your anger
his baby hands that didn’t care
if they were warmly regarded or slapped.
Your daughter articulate only in love,
diplomat in any conflict
running from frowns as fast as from blows.

Mother, loosen my tongue
or adorn me with a lighter burden.

These people who wait for your posthumous issue
say you changed their lives, clutch
your fourteen books, the film, the poster.
They don’t know how warm your hug was at night,
how big your bites of the last Baby Ruth
what a pain in the ass you were,
the most generous person I’ve ever known.

I see you Mom
cooking in the kitchen, strong brown hands on the table
a cup of chicken broth with the biggest thigh left over from last night’s supper
reviewing The New York Times.
I see you Mom, lying in that bed
finally ready, after the seasons and the surgeries
and the long long fight
the pain you almost never talked about
putting on your game face
more and more often as you,
growing into your glory even in your dying
went out like a flame
a tongue of lava pulled to the sea.

Momma, the day spins into night
I do my best work at three a.m. now
it’s twins this time, feet first
your smile sits in the smaller one’s face
I know now why ancients felt possessed by the dead
how am I supposed to let go
I need you.
The world is full
of motherless children and now
I am one of them
as the days spin into nights spin into my life
without my children’s grandmother
without your voice singing through the receiver
without that demanding woman who always
wanted what she wanted
and usually got it
but told me I was old enough
not to let my wants hurt me
now that I am forever without
you.

–Elizabeth Lorde-Rollins


Elizabeth Lorde-Rollins, M.D., M.Sc. was born and raised in New York City. She has been a baker, a bike messenger, and an elementary school teacher, but her greatest love is practicing medicine in disparate communities. While at the Adolescent Health Center, Dr. Lorde-Rollins participated in a study of the vaginal microbiome to improve therapies for bacterial vaginosis and develop post-coital prevention of HIV transmission. Dr. Lorde-Rollins has taught Health and Human Rights at Mount Sinai Medical School and Creative Writing at Hunter College. She is currently practicing Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mount Sinai West. She is working toward a Masters in acupuncture and traditional Chinese Medicine and hopes to offer a truly integrated practice in the future. She writes to breathe.

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