The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood

Jennifer Franklin – Poetry

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Jennifer Franklin

 

Eurydice in Hades

I thought it would be dark,
tucked into the earth
like so many fighting seeds.

But there is light enough
to see my body, its fissures—
collectors of secrets. There

is light enough to see fatigued faces,
houses where I insulted what I was
above ground. Here, below plants

that stretch, hover, guard my rooms
into oblivion, I learn what nothing is.
The rain-drenched body, its broken

kneecaps, my sour stench escaped
from my bay window, grew wings,
and left me. I carve angels,

not for protection but for the face
I never had. Their eyes turn up
as if there were a sky to find

through layers of guilt. Running
through the meadow, I flirted
with pain of dying off. I wanted it

young like in legend—to lie in silk
too good for me in life. Dead,
I could be propped up wicked

and hollow, like plastic storefront
mannequins. The women I adore
attach their faces to their chins—

demure, demure. I am glad he looked
back. It proved he never loved me.
Following his song home, I was

already a ghost and he, unreal,
was just the voice I listened to
for years, echoing in the garret

of my mind. Living in Hell is better
than living a lie. Once the flesh goes under,
it can never resurface, ravaged,

it belongs to the pure cold of earth.
These vigils are obsolete. Don’t tell me
where to place my candles.

 

 

Pandora Speaks

I’m all done being nice.
It hasn’t gotten me anywhere.

Since I was young, I gave
everything away—milk

money, homework, adoration.
Everyone wanted to make me

into a small version of herself—
teaching me weaving, writing,

wiles. All I wanted was to be loved—
picked a bouquet of dandelions

and handed it to my mother.
When she turned her mouth

into a little o and called the tight
yellow suns weeds, my body

became a weight I wanted
to let go. The only thing I could

open was the jar I was given
as a girl—the one that held

the lessons I was made to memorize
to keep me still, the colors I was told

not to wear because they clashed
with my red hair, rules of modesty

so men would not look at me
with hunger. When I unlatched

the lid, I had already lost everything—
faith, health, my child. I refused

to watch what flew out. But something
hard as lapis, real as want, wrenched

my wrist right back so Hope remained,
writhing alone at the bottom of the jar

like dirty water when dead tulips
are discarded—yellow stamens dropping

pollen to the floor. Silent, Hope watched me
for years. Months at a time, I forgot it was there.

But when its trapped like that, it grows
so large, nothing can quell it. No one thanks me

for what I have done. But I don’t need
praise anymore. I turned weeds into flowers.


Jennifer Franklin (AB Brown, MFA Columbia) is the author of No Small Gift (Four Way Books, 2018) and Looming (Elixir Press, 2015). Her poetry has appeared in Blackbird, Boston Review, Gettysburg Review, Guernica, The Nation, Paris Review, “poem-a-day” on poets.org,  Prairie Schooner and Sixth Finch.  She teaches poetry workshops and seminars at the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center, where she serves as Program Director and co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. She lives in New York City with her family.

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