Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


The mother finds her own wild, lost beginnings deep within the body of her daughter

 after Jacqueline Rose / after Chen Chen

she fed me 
clothed me
kept me
safe albeit
in excess
five layers
in spite of 
subtropical 
winter heat
so much to
eat I needed
digestive pills
to ward off
the stomach’s 
sharp protest
how not to
utter the un- 
grateful thing: 
that I am 
irrevocably
her object

that the
poet who 
wrote this
saved my life: 
Sometimes, 
parents &
children
become
the most
common of 
strangers 
Eventually,
a street 
appears
where they 
can meet 
again

How I
wished
that street
would appear
I kept trying
to make her 
proud of my 
acumen for 
language
these words
have not
been for
nothing
I wrote
to find
the street 
where we
might meet
again & now
there is relief
guilt or blame
but they are 
nearly always 
misplaced
you are born 
into the slip-
stream of
your mother’s 
unconscious

if someone
had told her
that the last 
thing a young 
mother needs
is false decency
courage & cheer 

she might not 
have hurt us
both but what
to do with 
remorse &
love that comes 
unbidden like a 
generous rain
how to accept
her care after
the storm is there
a point at which
the mother is 
redeemed the
child forgiven
can the origin
story be re-told
transfigured into
the version where
the garden is always 
paradise & no one 
need ever fall
out of grace

Credit


Copyright © 2019 by Mary Jean Chan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 2, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem


“I wrote this poem last year as I was completing my debut poetry collection. I was re-reading Chen Chen’s When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA Editions, 2017), alongside Jacqueline Rose’s Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty (Faber, 2018). The voices of Chen and Rose became a kind of co-mingling, which, alongside my own thoughts, eventually took the form of these thin, compressed, rivulet-type poems I had first come across in Emily Berry’s second collection Stranger, Baby (Faber, 2017). I wanted to explore what happens in the aftermath of reconciliation, especially between a mother and daughter whose coming out as queer severely tested their relationship for several years.”
Mary Jean Chan

Author


Mary Jean Chan

Mary Jean Chan's debut poetry collection is Flèche (Faber & Faber, 2019).

Date Published: 2019-09-02

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/mother-finds-her-own-wild-lost-beginnings-deep-within-body-her-daughter