The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood

Teri Cross Davis

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Teri Cross Davis

 

Two Glasses of Milk

If I were to leave them
two glasses of milk,
don’t write about that,
write about the napkin-
the perfect triangle tucked
around the circle of glass,
the absorbed condensation.

If I were to leave them
two glasses of milk, it would be
the tension of motherhood
and career, poet and wife
pulling like teeth at my
extended nipples until I was
greedily consumed in silence.

If I were to leave them
two glasses of milk,
even across my tombstone
would be the words:
daughter, wife, mother.
Identities like anchors,
so heavy I would carry
them even after death.

“Two Glasses of Milk” by Teri Ellen Cross Davis from Haint (Gival Press, 2016). Reprinted by permission of Gival Press.

*Note: The poem “Two Glasses of Milk” references Sylvia Plath’s suicide. On February 11, 1963, Plath placing her head in a gas oven. She left bread and milk for her two children, sleeping upstairs.

 

The Return of the Prodigal Mother

Here’s what I am supposed to want:
a husband, children, a pretty jeweled
leash. That I run thru his hands

like eel innards —you hate me for it.
That I whelped his rats, milked them even,
and that’s not all I need — you hate me for that too.

Know this— I crave the wind, its lashing
promise. At night I dance untethered under
swollen clouds, let the humid air suckle my skin.

But for now, I shout through pursed and painted lips.
I kick back with a dainty-slippered foot. I breech this birth.
This time blonde, next brunette, I will come back. Again and again and again.

* The Return of the Prodigal Mother is after paintings of the same name by the artist Dawn Black.
“The Return of the Prodigal Mother” by Teri Ellen Cross Davis from Haint (Gival Press, 2016). Reprinted by permission of Gival Press.


Teri Ellen Cross Davis is the author of Haint, winner of the a 2017 Ohioana Book Award in Poetry, a Cave Canem fellow and has received scholarships to attend the Virginia Center for Creative Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.

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