Maternal instinct


I am a mother

Though you are dead

I pretend otherwise

You feel me in that place that you are

And I sense you

In the small hands of my neighbor’s boy

In my urge to protect and let

Not one moment of harm befall

As if it were you, the ache inside

Sat next to me eating brunch

The waitress charmed by your precociousness

You don’t remind me a bit of myself

Just as my mother thought me a changeling

Who was the fair child she birthed? She wondered

Closing the door and walking into another universe

Away from the scold of maternity

It suited her to wear boob tubes and dance at 3am

Not wipe snot and vomit from the car seat.


And I see nothing of me in you

You eclipse a generation

Returning to be her and a little of your father

He had eyes that swallowed me whole

When I moved in his arms and invariably

He took and took and took

He also gave a little something of himself

Unwillingly in that hour before savagery

Even sadists have their moments of foreplay

It’s how they build to a crescendo

It’s how we fall for their slick words and

Hard falls

He filled me with you and underneath the green dress

I could see you swell and rise on the tide of my brine

Before the stairs before the marble

Cool on my burst cheek and the pattern of scarlet

He led me in oxblood to that single moment

We could have all ended there

With the moon ripe and redolent behind us

The smell of candle wax heavy on our hems.


There is no way to undo the circles

Looping through memory like planets fractured against starlight

There is only the clenched fist and a jump

Free wheeling in air, suspended

He watches with apocalypse eyes as I give birth

To the emptiness afterwards

Because his vision is winking out

Through time as we catapult and swing low

He tells me; you haven’t changed, your skin is still firm

And I splinter there in this path of thorns

The beating is joining bruises like daisy chains

You gave me life and then, bending close

Took it away with a snap of your callused fingers

We lie beneath the elm tree with our name carved

And you drink from my breast a milk of sorrow

I wanted you all to myself is your buttoned apology

It does not last .. it comes with the sharp pull on all fours

More hurt than can be described by sign and movement

Bearing a child and starting over bloodless

In one shattered moment

Leaning towards stairwell

Seeing you waiting


Beckoning me

To fall



43 thoughts on “Maternal instinct

  1. This was one I was proud of and I am rarely proud of what I write but I really think it was honest and beautiful in that sad way us poetry lovers sometimes relish. Thank you dearest Holly for reading and liking it. It means a lot to me coming from you beautiful girl

  2. One who would somewhat later become girlfriend and (briefly) fiance, gave a pet name to the life growing within her (not kin to me), the child she, unready to mother, would bear and give away. Time and distance took us far from contact for many years, but I saw that pet name, that encoded memorial, in an email address and knew it could belong to no other. I think I understand why she has kept that name active, but I think you understand far more deeply.

  3. The echo of these words are clanging against my rib cage. You write with your soul, and you’re so beautiful. ❀

  4. Thanks. We weren’t together long, but she went on a few years later to marry another Bob, and when he died after a long, good time, she found another Bob and they seem happy. They were/are good ones too and once we reestablished contact though that email address a few years ago, we’re still friends.

  5. This is poignant homage to the many unsung losses and grief. So much has not been acknowledged – till now

  6. Haunting and brutally beautiful πŸ’›πŸ’—

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