Friday, 19 July 2024

American Life in Poetry: Watching My Mother

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

There is a stretch of childhood that can be filled with such vivid images, yet it is often hard to determine whether what is being recalled is memory of our experience, or a memory of what we have been told.

Jessica Abughattas’ poem, “Watching My Mother,” ends with such optimism and confidence, even though the details of what she remembers are a stylized and beautiful version of disquiet.

In this elegant poem, she enacts the strange magic of how we often organize memory in a manner that allows us to survive.

Watching My Mother
By Jessica Abughattas

Beside the Ford Thunderbird,
a suitcase splayed open.
She collects her clothes
from the driveway.
The yellow jumper collapses
into a million threads of saffron.
She keeps dropping them.
They wither and dissolve,
petal by petal
into pavement.
Her hands are rivers.
Her eyes, mascara bats.
Her hair is crying.
I am five and perfect.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Jessica Abughattas, “Watching My Mother” from Strip (University of Arkansas Press, 2020.) First Published in Nelle, Issue Two, 2019. Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

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