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motherhood

Arch of Hysteria

I want my web to hold. I want to repair
what I have made. I was not given the gold hive.
In me seethes the silk of invisible worlds. Spinning
my body inside of hairline emptiness, I project

Slack

When this story ended—or when it began, because who on June Plum Road could tell the difference?—the mermaids were floating at the top of Old Henry’s tank. The green hair of one and the pink hair of the other fanned out on the water’s surface, silky straight hair, and the sparkles in their tails caught the afternoon light. Old Henry laughed when he saw the dolls in his tank, a laugh he would later regret. Because when he looked beyond the mermaids, his eyes made out two forms, the little girls, beneath the water’s surface. 

And the mother would go mad when she heard, at least for a while, sitting on the steps in front of her house, legs wide, without panties. A shame a man passing by was the one to call out to let her know. Her people would send for her. News would travel back that she’s now cleaning for white people in New York. Many on June Plum Road wouldn’t know what to do with this information but to wonder if she remembers to wear panties. 

<i>Double Bind: Women on Ambition</i>. Ed. by Robin Romm. Liveright, 2017. HB, 336p. $27.95.

Bound to Succeed

I once asked my mother, a well-educated, exceedingly competent woman, why she served as someone’s assistant for the majority of her professional life, yet always took a leadership role in volunteer organizations (president of the PTA and director of nearly every church committee on which she’s ever served, for example). Her response was unequivocal: “Your grandmother always told me that I would never be anything other than a secretary.” Mothers—“They fuck you up,” Philip Larkin wrote. “They may not mean to, but they do.”

Notes on Selling One’s Identity

November 16, 2012

When my son was five months old, my friend Stephanie and I decided to start a magazine about motherhood. I was living then in a town that was known, in equal parts, for its college and for its poultry processing plants (and a little bit for its bus [...]

The Cutting Place

She’s always been a tomboy, Mama Vic says, Mouthy.
Runnin’ the roads. Not comin’ home, and as she speaks

A young mother rests under mosquito nets with her newborn baby in one of the four Doctors Without Borders clinics in Port-au-Prince. The humanitarian organization tries to fill in gaps left by the capital city's virtually nonexistent healthcare system.

The Young Mothers of Port-au-Prince

After the last of four back-to-back hurricanes pummeled Haiti in August and September 2008, mountains of garbage, mud, raw sewage, and debris were left behind, clogging the streets of Port-au-Prince. A spate of unbearably hot and humid days followed, making the city’s narrow confines feel even more claustrophobic than usual. In the neighborhood of Carrefour Feuilles, a sprawling slum of one-room cardboard and tin shacks that look like they’re about to collapse, that’s exactly what happened.

Love Song for the Mother of No Children

You followed Oleta Esteban every time you saw her. At the grocery store she was buying frozen peas, milk and bread, chicken broth, two bananas. Is this what women ate after they lost their children? Oleta looked as if she scavenged crumbs left for birds, seeds scattered. Brittle, she was, an old child, thin bones beneath yellow skin, suddenly, terribly visible.

You remembered her in a red dress and white sandals, Oleta before Dorrie and Elia died, arms bare, toenails painted. She dropped her sandals in the dark grass to dance with her children barefoot.

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