Poems & Essays

18 Jan

Like a Sweater in the Wash

Taking Flight 4 Responses

Mother woke me up to tell me. Her fifty something voice,
trembly as a five year old admitting soiled panties.
She was sorry. My new white sweater
with the red embroidered rose,
the one I’d bought with summer job money.
So sorry. . .
She hadn’t seen it there,
mixed in with the other whites
accustomed to bleach and hot water.
So sorry . . .
Another woman might have blamed me,
dumping delicates in the hamper,
not setting them aside as she’d taught.
Instead, Mother requested
the love I hear missing
in my own child’s bleached voice.
So sorry . . .
I see her reflection today,
pacing by the bed,
her bottom lip clamped
beneath coffee-stained buck teeth,
certain her child’s affection could shrink
like a sweater in the wash.


Jacqueline Jules is the author of the poetry chapbooks Field Trip to the Museum from Finishing Line Press and Stronger Than Cleopatra from ELJ publications. Her poetry has appeared in over 100 journals including Inkwell, Soundings Review, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, Gargoyle, Imitation Fruit, Calyx, Connecticut River Review, and Pirene’s Fountain. She is also the author of 30 books for young readers including the Zapato Power series and Never Say a Mean Word Again. Visit her online at www.jacquelinejules.com

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  1. Beth Mills

    January 18, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    I think you really capture that tentativeness of your mother, thinking love could vanish so easily. I know I have felt that with my girls, especially now that they are women and I seem to annoy them so much!

  2. Jacqueline Jules

    January 26, 2016 at 1:32 am

    Thank you, Beth. We often walk on eggshells around our children once they reach the teenage years. We have to establish a whole new relationship and it is so hard. Mothering my teenagers brought back so many memories of my relationship with my own mother.

  3. Sarah Elizabeth Finch

    May 19, 2016 at 3:41 am

    Beautiful images here. I loved this!

  4. Leah

    October 26, 2019 at 4:18 pm

    Thank you, Beth, for this beautiful (and painful) poem. I’ve been surprised by how mothering my adult daughter, who is a new mom, has brought back such vivid images of my relationship with my own mother. And your poem has highlighted that tentativeness we feel as mothers and that our mothers felt with us.


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