for my son

I have ignored you for a year.
I have not dwelt on the soft fur
of your arms or the way you rubbed
my cheek with your own starry cheek.

I splintered your hands away 
from my heart when you exited 
me. Of the men who have claimed
my body, only you reflect

my exact goodness, tragic 
as a cotton field ripe with bloom, 
but I have not dwelt on this either. 
Not in one year or three—

the way you break open your own 
throat, singing, sculpting one world, 
another, or kiss a girl in my kitchen, 
calling her, Love, My Love. No: 

I have ignored you for a year or six, 
maybe. Not touching your feet 
or your shoulders to dab them dry.  
Not humming in your ear 

as I did once. Not holding your head
against my chest in the sad night. I have not 
dwelt on other women who speak sweetly 
to you, laugh with you, or hold your head

against their chests in the sad night.
I have ignored you for a year or ten,
finally severing the root, purging,
drying out the heart:          go.

Copyright © 2018 by Laurie Ann Guerrero. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 20, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“My becoming a mother at nineteen years old held incredible weight for both my son and me. Countering narratives that deemed us less than often called for subversive and political mothering on my part: tough love and extremism. In examining mother-son relationships within the paradigm of familial and cultural traditions, I was forced to explore my own (sometimes) ill-guided inclinations as I prepared my only son to move to Manhattan from the Southside of San Antonio for his education eighteen years later. This poem explores what gets lost, misplaced, and erased when one spends too much time looking at the ‘bigger picture.’”
—Laurie Ann Guerrero