The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood

Kathy Engel – Poetry

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Kathy Engel

 

For that hour

it’s the icefloes I can’t stop
thinking about, cascade of endless
blue, lonely cold

& faces of grieving mothers
I’ll always see, year after
year, country after country –

tonight I pray especially
for India, Gaza, Colombia & here
& here & yet to name may be

to exclude – the list doesn’t end
always fragmented
like memory, broken shell

& we are more than the names
of places, more than lists –
the ache of separation

knows no border or time zone;
Vandana’s seeds promise
for every loss a planting –

today, against the backdrop
of nonstop war, I sat on the floor
with Carolina & Paola, sisters –

in my tia Kathy arms rocked
their babies born just weeks apart
to sweet sleep – tiny frog legs,

bellies softening, faces up toward
whatever’s there & for that hour
listening to the beautiful mamas

I knew as children, me telling
early stories of my babies, their
sister friends, Ella & Jaja,

time evaporated,
everything once again
possible, each sudden twitch,

skin smelling so new

– May, 2021

 

Post script: 65

I try to learn serenity
with peeling pink river birch,
wave’s white curl & snarl,
knowing arrival means death
so instead I extend ritual
to point ridiculous

ask permission of spotted
sycamore, namesake of
my mother’s childhood road,
to touch its layered bark,
tree my grandfather tried
to teach me that only
now I recognize

I spit a waterfall of out-
loud thank you’s, talk with
my dead, add to the list
as it grows – fear of
neglecting any ghost, fear
the atlas of forgiveness
might edit to deletion, starve –

at the shore again, thick
black coffee in favorite mugs,
tremor of waking fades
as we inhale sea & Jon
tells me that it’s possible
to stand inside a cloud
& we are doing it right now

Summer, 2021

 

When the body

abandons the spirit with whom it partnered,
even when sparring, even when unaligned, or dis
located, even as sight scorches the lie of time,
or even when the severing is slow; what, beloved
unfaithful evening, what if the mind still stirs
a thousand wild ways, racketing against the softening
of cartilage; what then?


Kathy Engel works in collaborative poetics and is Associate Arts Professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ Department of Art and Public Policy. Her most recent book is The Lost Brother Alphabet, Get Fresh Books, 2020. www.kathyengelpoet.com

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