So much we call memory
is us rewriting ourselves
as the center of a story,
when perhaps we were peripheral
to something bigger unfolding
just beneath our own skins, and unknown.

In this story I am both central and peripheral:
that day I grew up
beginning like the day before
with orange juice and a trip to the gym
before work to fight the three-pound gain
on the scale no low-carb/high protein diet
could explain; that and my need for so much sleep
drove me to the aisle with the EPTs
next to the FDS and the maxi pads–
everything female jumbled together with Vagisil
and Monistat, where all things girl are displayed
as a treatable condition–blood, itch and odor
masked in flowers until  sweet.

I do not know if I passed or failed that test
but it is how and when I grew up,
that changed color shading the names
I have called myself since;
the sharper sense of smell,
the memory of traded oxygen
and sustenance so deep
I can feel a lie fall from a mouth
I helped make, and the other things mothers do–
the way I learned to rock and hold,
and how songs spun from my mouth
I did not remember ever singing,
only hearing as a lullaby.


About Susan L Daniels

I am a firm believer that politics are personal, that faith is expressed through action, and that life is something that must be loved and lived authentically--or why bother with any of it?
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39 Responses to Maternity

  1. Love this Susan. Especially the bit about all the “feminine” products projecting the notion of so many “treatable conditions”, the way society and thus advertising portrays images of women. You are very astute.

    • Thank you Holly. This one feels rough and a bit unfinished to me. Oh hell, don’t all drat poems feel that way?

      Glad you liked that bit–that is something I think will survive the editing this piece needs 😉

  2. Mary says:

    Oh yes, that aisle of products that was filled with products to cover or change smells…so many times girls / women were given the message that ‘natural’ wasn’t good enough. Especially if a person showered. LOL. (And I think they still are…..add in things like excessive make-up, waxings, plastic surgery, etc. Don’t get me started!!)

  3. Grace says:

    I love this…motherhood did changed me and made me grow up very quickly (until now I am still learning to be a better mom) ~ The ending lines was perfect, I do recall rocking my babies this way ~

    • Thank you, Grace. It was a strange feeling, as I came to motherhood late, to hear those songs I know I never sang, only heard. The wisest thing I ever heard about parenting was that it is something that grows with us, and can never be rehearsed. We are all learning to be better moms (and dads too, I think).

  4. brian miller says:

    I can feel a lie fall from a mouth
    I helped make, and the other things mothers do….dang what a packed couple lines that is….as with the others…the aisle of products…it is so sad how external we have become…your opening is great as well how we make ourselves the center of the show…ha…true that…

    • 🙂 I think we all want to star in our own movies–and we should; realizing all the while we are someone else’s best supporting actor/actress. Glad you liked this, Brian. I agree we have become so superficial.

  5. The opening really got me in this Susan. So much we call memory is us rewriting ourselves – it is a debate I have in my mind a lot. I have very clear memories but they are ultimately just my version of events,not necessarily the actual events.

    • I am so glad you caught that–I do feel most of the time I am fully realizing my part of the story–but that is ll it is–my part of the story, and there are so many other voices in it.

  6. stuartmcphersonpoet says:

    this is excellent!…honest and human and capturing perfectly that moment of realisation that one is not a child, and then to create a child, and understand completely the cycle…wow…love this

  7. You either grow into motherhood or it grows on you.

    the way I learned to rock and hold,
    and how songs spun from my mouth
    I did not remember ever singing,
    only hearing as a lullaby.

    Yes, Wonderful poem, Susan

  8. J Cosmo Newbery says:

    Is there a pass or fail? I suspect not. Normal is a fictional concept. Many beautiful images in this.

  9. Took me back Sus…thank you x

  10. Alice Keys says:

    You out did yourself here. You write my experiences as if you were secretly spying on my life all those years ago. You tap into the elemental nature of motherhood among woman. When I read this I know we are all one.
    You rock.

  11. nelle says:

    Powerful, in words, in experience.

  12. claudia says:

    In this story I am both central and peripheral…love that…very cool way to write this..lvoe the different thoughts in this and yeah..motherhood changes us much and our view on the world.

  13. ruleofstupid says:

    This rocks Susan. Memory as narrative, femininity as something to be cured, and beautiful nuances of motherhood – all in one piece – a really wonderful poem 🙂

  14. Miriam E. says:

    oh Susan, i love this! the beginning is superb – as well as the rest. to put it simply: love every piece of it.

  15. Such a pleasure to read this poem… but those first three lines! Incredible, beautiful, powerful – a tremendous opening to your work that is about more than a coming-of-age, about more than falling into motherhood, but about a transformation of a life.

  16. Dick Jones says:

    Experiences denied to the male poets so we’re reliant for a sense of that which is exclusive to the distaff side. What better medium than poetry and how eloquently and richly communicated here.

  17. lucychili says:

    love the rock and hold, the lies and the lullabies, it is a strange thing to try and fit into ourselfs, like unfamiliar shoes. great poem.

  18. Tony says:

    You captured me with the first line – and simply didn’t let go.

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