‘Orphan’ is a hauntingly beautiful poem written by Blas Falconer and is taken from ‘Borderlands and Crossroads’. Blas is an acclaimed poet who has won a number of awards including the ‘Maureen Egen Literary Award’, the ‘New Delta Review Eyster Prize’ for poetry and the ‘Barthelme Fellowship’.

ORPHAN

I’d come to help settle your

mother’s affair. On the last night,

 

we ate where she worked

all her life. Now that she’s gone,

 

you said, I’ll never come back.

Looking out over the dark, you saw

 

a light in the distance, a boat

crossing the bay, and told

 

the story of the fisherman

cursed to float adrift

 

forever. You hadn’t thought of it

since you were a child, and held

 

your hand across the table to

show me how it trembled.

 

I didn’t understand until, alone,

years later, wandering the city where

 

I was born, I stood before

a black wall, polished to shimmer

 

and it looked to me like the sea

at night, hard and endless

 

‘One Photograph’ is a hauntingly beautiful poem which reminds us about how the Holocaust is made up of micro individual stories. In this case it is about a mother and a daughter. Grief is invoked within the reader through a sad reimagination of what happened to individuals in the extermination camps. In this way the reader is able to fully grasp the horror of it all.

‘One Photograph’ was written by Jennifer Franklin (photo below) who graduated from Brown and Columbia. Her full-length collection, Looming, was published by Elixir Press in 2015. Her poetry has appeared in Blackbird, Boston Review, Gettysburg Review, Guernica, The Nation, The Paris Review, poets.org, Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner, Salmagundi, Southwest Review, and Verse Daily. Franklin is co-editor of  Slapering Hol Press and she teaches poetry workshops at The Hudson Valley Writers’ Center and lives in New York City.

This poem is part of my ongoing feature of feminist mothering poetry from the book ‘Borderlands and Crossroads’.

—after The Last Album: Eyes from the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau

by Ann Weiss

They hold nothing but each other. Fixed

like this forever, mother and daughter—

their love survives: testament to life before

God’s great silence. No one alive knows

their names or will. Maybe it is wrong for me

to mourn them. But I put what remains in a small

pewter frame next to my dead grandmother

and her sister. When you rest your hands

on my shoulders, I think of them—the mother

in her housecoat, blossoming roses, the girl

in her swimsuit, tummy round and innocent.

In the cold cattle car, they had no nest but each

 

other. Human cries around them drowned out

owls in autumn, smothered everything but

stars that watched them suffer. I hope

they were together when they died—that

 

their eyes were the last of what they saw

in this fallen world. Even in the thick darkness

of my living room, I see them: embracing,

always almost kissing

‘My Daughter’s Body’ was written by Jennifer Franklin (photo below) who graduated from Brown and Columbia. Her full-length collection, Looming, was published by Elixir Press in 2015. Her poetry has appeared in Blackbird, Boston Review, Gettysburg Review, Guernica, The Nation, The Paris Review, poets.org, Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner, Salmagundi, Southwest Review, and Verse Daily. Franklin is co-editor of  Slapering Hol Press and she teaches poetry workshops at The Hudson Valley Writers’ Center and lives in New York City.

This poem is part of my ongoing feature of feminist mothering poetry from the book ‘Borderlands and Crossroads’.

If you saw her, you would think she was beautiful.

Strangers stop me on the street to say it.

If they talk to her they see that beauty means

nothing.

Their sight shifts to pigeons on the sidewalk.

Their eye contact becomes as poor as hers. They

slip away with varying degrees of grace. I never

know how much to say to explain the heartbreak.

As her smile sears me, I hold her hand all the way

home from the swings. The florist hands her

a dying rose and she holds it gently, without

ripping the petals like she does to the tulips

that stare at us with their insipid faces,

pretending that they can hold my sorrow

in their outstretched cups because I knew them

before I knew grief.

They do not understand that they are ruined for me now.

I planted five hundred bulbs as she grew inside of me,

her brain already formed by strands of damaged DNA

or something else the doctors do not understand.

After her bath, she curls up on me for lullabies—

the only time that her small body is still.

As I sing, I breathe in her shampooed hair and think

of the skeletons in the Musée de Préhistoire

in Les Eyzies.

The bones of the mother and baby rest in a glass case

in the same position we lie in now.

They were buried in that unusual pose,

child curled up in the crook of the mother’s arm.

The archaeologists are puzzled by the position.

It doesn’t surprise me at all. It would be so easy

to die this way—both of us breathing our last

breaths with nursery rhymes on our open lips,

the promise of peaceful sleep

“The maternal body is a primal landscape, a space of belonging whose influence reverberates throughout a lifetime, regardless of where our wanderings take us”.

‘Borderlands and Crossroads’ is one of the most magnificent books that I have ever read.

Motherhood does not just originate in the body, but in the world—a place, a region, a country or nation, a landscape, a language, a culture. Mothers are, as novelist Rachel Cusk once observed, “the countries we come from.”

This unique literary anthology features thirty-five poems and twenty-three works of prose (creative non-fiction and short fiction).

Forty-three award-winning and accomplished writers reflect on their complex twenty-first century familial identities and relationships, exploring maternal landscapes of all kinds, including those of heritage, matrilineage, geneaology, geography, emigration, war, exile, alienation, and affiliation. Spanning the globe—from the U.K, the USA and Canada, Egypt, the former Yugoslavia, France, Africa, Korea and South America—these intimate and honest narratives of the heart cross borders and define crossroads that are personal and political, old and new.

Recovering the maternal landscape through poetry and prose, these writers both memorialize and celebrate the power of family to define, limit, and challenge us.

This poem expresses the timeless and never-ending worries that mothers have over  their children’s wellbeing. This poem pivots around a graduation ceremony. It shows that milestone events and birthdays may come and go which signify a child getting that bit older or coming of age but a mother’s work is never done.

It is written by Marilyn L Taylor whom I have previously featured

I’d like to tell him something he should know

on this momentous day—his graduation.

I don’t think he’s going to like it, though.

He’ll claim he heard that sermon long ago,

why can’t I rid myself of my fixation,

quit mouthing things I think he ought to know?

He’s certain that I’ll tell him Take it slow.

Do all your messing up in moderation.

He’s right. And he won’t like it much. Although

he’ll like it better than the way I’ll go

mano a mano, some smooth variation

on all the things he doesn’t know I know—like where he hides his stash from Mexico

and other shortcuts to intoxication

beneath the basement stairs. He’ll deny it, though.

Still, I’ll avoid that burning down below,

exclude all references to fornication,

even small precautions. (Like he doesn’t know?)

And that’s my make-believe scenario,

my grand conclusion to his education:

I’ll tell him everything he needs to know.

He’ll barely listen. That won’t stop me, though.