Skip to content

Four Poems from “There Was an Old Woman”

by Jessy Randall

My mother and your mother went over the way in order to have a struggle, for it was the day on which, by tradition, mothers mutilate each other’s faces. They have only themselves for weapons, their mouths, their sentences. “My son tested Gifted and Talented,” says one. “I just want what’s best for my children,” says another. Their faces don’t change, but soon their insides are as twisted up and painful as if their noses had been cut off.

My mother and your mother were out hanging clothes. There was a terrible fight, and the color of the blood was unknown. Discussing this matter will help us decide who is it and who is not it. You will answer the question one way if you want to be it, another way if you don’t. If you miscount, you may end up being it or not it, anyway. The other kids have no way of knowing whether you got what you wanted.

Make my bed, mama, now, I’ve been at my stepmother’s and she cooked up a four-footed fish also known as a newt and poisoned me and the dog. I’d much rather hang out with you, mom, because I can order you around and never say please. And you’ll be the one blamed for not teaching me any manners.

Mother, may I go out to swim? Yes, as long as you don’t go near the water. And you can have dessert, as long as it’s fruit. You can sleep late as long as you cry all night, and you can have a prescription for birth control as long as you don’t actually need it. Yes, I can drive you. I’ll drive you as soon as I finish rolling out the dough for this pie, and baking it, and letting it cool.

Jessy Randall‘s most recent book is Injecting Dreams into Cows (Red Hen, 2012). She is the Curator of Special Collections at Colorado College.

Lead image: “Millennium Clothesline #8” (via Flickr user delayed gratification)