I sit in the audience and watch my daughter role-play. She plays the mother:
Are you okay?
she asks the woman who plays her daughter.
The woman cowers behind an invisible bathroom door.
I’m fine, she mumbles. Leave me alone.
I know what you’re doing, my daughter says.
I’m fine! the other cries,
now more desperate, more panicked.
My daughter, playing the mother, watches the woman playing the daughter. The woman crouches, throws up into an invisible toilet.
My daughter stares, still and silent. She turns to the audience for help:
I don’t know, she shrugs her shoulders. I don’t know what to say. What should I do?
I watch my daughter role-play, I’ve forgotten to breathe. I’ve been crying, holding my clenched fist to my mouth.
I don’t know what to say, I whisper. What should I do?
Joelle Hannah lives in Moorpark, CA with her husband and 5 children. She teaches composition classes at Moorpark College. She has been writing and performing poetry since 2005. Her poems have appeared in The Scribbler, The Night Goes On All Night, Bridges of Fate Anthology, Chaparral, Two Words For, Where I Live, Mothers Always Write, and A Quiet Courage. She has performed in various venues throughout Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, including Hollywood Book Fair, Artist Union Gallery, Pat Pincus Poetry Festival, and Personal Stories at Center Theater in Santa Barabara.
I pushed them off. I pushed them off. What was I thinking?
They flew, those two, on a hard plastic sled with no runners. The kind you can’t steer. Down a hill that loomed bigger as they catapulted towards smaller and smaller.
What was I thinking? I helped their excitement climb onto the sled with their clumsy snow boots and their puffy snow pants made of vinyl – swish, swish – as their five-year-old bottoms sat down, one in front, one behind. I secured their warm hats with imperfect tight bows, squeezed their mittens aright, said goodbye and pushed them off, hard, just like they asked. What was I thinking?
Down the hill they careened, bobbing this way and that, gaining speed, hitting bumps, avoiding close crashes with sleds of lost kids, just like them, dashing by and out for a spin.
Time moving fast clashed with time way too slow till they reached the bottom, tumbled off in a flip and flew separate ways, their limp bodies flopping head first in the snow. My horrified face gave me away as I raced down the hill, slipping and sliding all the way down to find them, smiling, all white drippy giggles, which injected my fears with the knowledge that pushing them off is my job.
Catherine Stratton is a writer and filmmaker living in Hoboken, New Jersey. Her work appeared in the Fall 2019 print issues of the Delmarva Review and the Tahoma Literary Review and will be published in Door is a Jar Literary Magazine and Woodhall Press’s Flash NonFiction Anthology in 2020.
It makes me stretch and change shapes. My arms can be the swings he can sit on and play for hours. I can be the parachute he can use to slow down his fall when flying, the rubber boat he climbs up to, when he feels he’s drowning.
It allows me to see through the darkness. When he’s sick and scared and he looks for my eyes, I make sure they shine with a very bright light. I become a beacon. Fixed in place and centered, I don’t leave or stop glowing, because I know that if I do, he may get lost and I with him.
My super-power pulverizes anger faster than an atomic bomb, anger that, like an old faded sweatshirt that doesn’t fit anymore, has been stored in one closet of my heart for so long it has become another part of myself, like my flesh, my hair, and my bones.
It crushes stress into dust better than a M4 Sherman tank, the stress of having to juggle cooking, cleaning, teaching, grading papers, and a burdening desire to be perfect in everything I do that bends my back and shrinks my lungs till I can’t move.
My sweet boy makes me strong, powerful, invincible. Mother Love is my armor, my shield, and my sword.
Mari-Carmen Marin was born in Málaga, Spain, but moved to Houston, TX, in 2003, where she has found her second home. She is a professor of English at Lone Star College—Tomball, and enjoys dancing, drawing, reading, and writing poetry in her spare time. Writing poetry is her comfy chair in front of a fireplace on a stormy winter day. Her work has appeared in several places, including, Wordriver Literary Review, Scarlet Leaf Review, Dash Literary Journal, Months to Years, The Awakening Review, Lucky Jefferson, American Writers Review, and Willowdown Books.
Jasmine weaving itself along the edge of a fence whispers trellis me your secrets until white petals drop to stones with rows of sand mounded by anthills. Fields of lavender replace the scent of lilac. Two monarchs swirl and twirl together from butterfly bush bloom to raspberry kiss then off to jasmine and mottled petals of pink roses, two butterflies exquisitely uncanny in their communion of pursuits over the gate to the slow-growing sunflowers that proclaim summer is actually just beginning. Remain in pair formation for the duration. Wide-winged flutter, the two monarchs remain close to one another in their own known unknowing orbits.
A five-year old wearing a tiara eats breakfast at a picnic table under tree limbs and birdsong. She announces you need to call me Queen Mina Mina. Despite no actual castle, spires in her mind’s eye are tall as a neighbor’s cedar tree that reaches the sky. She envisions a dolphin-filled moat surrounding her grandparent’s deck. Her loquaciousness refuses to wear appropriate attire for a playground at dusk, whereupon she returns home with legs that bugs reported as tasty but lean. She decrees Queens don’t have to take baths if they don’t want to while declaring that chocolate-vanilla swirl cones can stand-in for dinner and proclaims crows never again will swoop down to nab unattended royal scones from her butterfly tea set.
Mary Ellen Talley’s poems have recently been published in Raven Chronicles, Banshee, Mothers Always Write, Flatbush Review and Ekphrastic Review as well as in anthologies, All We Can Hold and Ice Cream Poems. Her poetry has received two Pushcart Nominations. A chapbook is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.