“Mothers & Daughters” — Member Contributions from the Young Feminist Network
Every month, we feature the work and story of a member of the Young Feminist Network with the hope of inspiring and learning from each other. This month, we called out for stories and poetry from our members exploring the theme of “Mothers & Daughters”.
“I am afraid to walk too fast,” she said.
Her bony arm slipping into mine.
Once, she was the gravitational force in my universe,
“Walk,” she said when I was fumbling.
“Jump,” she said when the depths were terrifying.
“Love,” she said when I was afraid of falling.
“Talk,” she said when I was retreating.
“Fly,” she said when I thought I was failing.
I cling to her bony arm.
“Walk,” I said afraid to let go.
Another poem about my mother
my mother peers over frayed pages with ingredients scribbled in the margins,
asks me if it’s better to reduce 6 oz of butter to 4 and not using eggs even though the recipe says use eggs, makes sense.
my mother asks me — the one who only ever enters the kitchen
to drop off plates with crumbs dusted and coffee mugs leaving stains next to the sink,
whether she should add more milk or less flour,
more cheese or less chillies, do you think 15 minutes will be enough?
my mother, who was never given the space to make mistakes,
always shamed when she took a new step, a misstep,
when she used her mind, spoke her mind,
changed her mind, blamed when things didn’t turn out quite so right,
still second-guesses herself, always self-doubt first,
ready to trust anyone else, over her own expertise,
thirty years of cooking and feeding others before herself,
holds a candle to my less than informed guesses, shrugs, furrowed brows,
exasperated mummy how do you expect me to know?
only ever made to feel small
rather than brave, deflated over empowered,
still cowers, when she hears loud voices,
still whimpers as it begins to crumble.
why do so many of the poems you write mention your mother?
sometimes deep inside myself,
I hear a voice telling me maybe I’ve taken a misstep,
maybe I’ve wondered off, I should’ve stuck to the plan,
done what I was told, now look what’s gone wrong,
this is all your fault, this is all your doing,
what a waste of time and space, what a waste of money,
who gave you permission, who gave you the right?
maybe you shouldn’t even bother next time,
maybe you shouldn’t think for yourself next time,
maybe you shouldn’t think so highly of yourself,
when you know, when you’ve always known,
you never get anything right anyway,
and you didn’t deserve this in the first place.
while waiting for the other shoe to drop,
I write poems so that it makes sense,
so that I make sense, the only way I know how
to unlearn what I know, what I’ve been told,
what was passed down, like recipes,
by my mother, to my mother,
and her mother, and her mother before,
letting words flow, don’t let my fingers always stumble upon
the same keys, dare to write differently, bravely
veer out of line, maybe making mistakes is not as bad
as the fear of being held accountable,
not speaking because my voice trembles,
never picking up a spatula, or a pen,
so that I never have to watch it crumble.