The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood
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Poetry by Jane Schulman

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The Mother

I kept them close when they were young. The boys could roam as far as the mulberry in Schiozzi’s yard qnd the empty lot by the East River. They’d wrestle in the grass, send spitballs across the dinner table, wear me down with bicker and clash. Over the years, threads unraveled. The oldest yanked himself loose. The second unfurled without a ripple. The third untangled silent as stone, sliding out the side door without goodbye.

Strands slipped away, like rope paying out through a sailor’s palm. Now these boys have come home men. Home again to sail Dad’s sloop, home to fight for first at the Sunday sports pages. Soon the flock will disperse but now we’ve got blueberry scones, coffee, a vase of fresh-cut woolly sunflowers.

 

STRINGS THAT BIND

My hate is a thin red string
that tethers you here, a kite
caught in the crown of an oak.

I stepped away from
your bed for five minutes,
Mama. You went and died.

You knew I had plans.
We’d move you to hospice.
eat pastrami

on rye, listen to Sinatra,
watch Casablanca
over and over.

A year since you died,
I walk this trail beside
the lake we fished for bass

on days you’d cast
your line, reel one in
each time. I thought this year

would bring a sloughing-off
of grudge. But no,
I can’t let go the weeks

you’d hole up in your room
drapes shut black, or chase
us down the block with bread knives.

Mama, help me turn
my heart by slow degrees
from chill to melt.

Unravel strings that bind
you here and free us both.

          — Jane Schulman

 


Jane Schulman is a poet and flash fiction writer.  She’s been a featured poet in local venues, published in print and online, and taught senior citizens to write their lives.  Jane was a finalist two times for the Morton Marr Poetry Prize at Southwest Review.   She also works as a speech pathologist in a Brooklyn public school with young children with autism and significant cognitive delays.

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