Alone beneath the shade of a weeping willow tree
I pretended to be you—
Mother, did you pretend you were me?
While nights I slept content in my bed, did your sighing fingers
wish it were you, instead, dressing dolls with make-believe
Did you envy the towel I secured on my head
with a cowgirl’s hat, my fake hair swishing long down my back
as I galloped the range on a stick-horse
with my brothers 3: a sunburned hoyden, knobby skin-kneed?
Did you covet my tucked in bed covers
and lament I was me, and you the mother?
Who read you bedtime stories
Who soothed away your fears
Ah mother, who taught you those suburban fears?
Our femaleness has done this!
Separated us, pried us apart bone by bone;
taught us to bear our trials and life’s cycles
I wish someone had sung you a lullaby,
held your little girl freckled self.
(All I could do was avoid sidewalk cracks
out of respect for your health.)
(Note: this was written in 1990 when I was trying to come to terms with my dismaying relationship with my mother. I don’t agree today with its sentiment, but I meant it when I wrote it, so it stands as is.)