The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood

Jennifer Schomburg Kanke – Poetry

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Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

 

The House of Never Enough

1. Architect

I am
a brick wall
of want
she knows
she’s not
a wrecking ball
strong enough
to take me down
She is the one
that built me
and in her building
no longer recognizes
the floor plan
or the mortar.

2. Hand-Me-Downs

Fuck those brown corduroy slacks
that went out of style before the knees wore out,
I will not wear them on picture day or any other.
I will not listen to their sushing as I walk
or their straining as I sit. I refuse their reminder
that all my clothes came to me in black trash bags,
that my mother thinks she has done well
to get all this from her sister who has always
thought herself the better one, that she has given me
so many choices though I am and always will be
a greedy wanting thing. My second-grade class photo
shows me in my old jeans with worn out knees,
proud because they are my own. I have forgotten
three years ago they, too, were my cousin’s.

3. Miracle-Gro

I scavenge pennies and dimes
from the clothes-covered concrete floor of the basement.
They are corroded and green with the same factory dust
that stains her hands and shoes, that makes gardens grow
in the richer neighborhoods to the north of town.

On our side, we are mulberries and gooseberries,
things the birds planted no one dug up,
things haphazard, but doing their best.
Soon her life will not be enough for me.
I will move on from what she has forgotten to what she’s hidden:
her torn dollar bills, the occasional five or ten in the purse.
Soon I will be a peony, picky about my growing
conditions and soil, demanding support,
opening only to the rough tickle of the ants.

4. The Hive

Now open the walls, peel away the vinyl siding
to see the crumbling remains of abandonment.
Memory gives us slanted September sun
hitting the backside of the house until
everything smelled like hot, hot honey,
though none of us recognized it for what it was.
She said we dripped amber Coke down
the yellowed flowers of the wallpaper,
as if we would waste something so precious
just to be ornery, just to make a mother’s Saturday
all scrubbing and chipping, all elbow grease
and shit-talking. But who could fault her?
Who could have guessed the life inside
this uninsulated three-bedroom ranch?

 


Jennifer Schomburg Kanke, originally from Columbus, Ohio, lives in Tallahassee, Florida, where she edits confidential government documents. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, and Court Green. She serves as a reader for Emrys.

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