On the Things I Want My Mother to Know


I want to tell my mother about the man I have been seeing.

I want her to stop asking about the boy

Whose name is not welcome in my house anymore.

I want to erase the look she had in her eyes

When I sat with her, gulped down a glass of wine, and told her he had left.

I want her to believe I am fine.


Mama, he is a good man.

Kind and funny,

His teeth are white and straight

And his arms are strong.


Mama, he does not drink.

So on the nights when I am lost in nostalgia,

On the nights when I put in my best

To distort the picture of him,

To make him smaller and lighter,

And his arms rougher,

On the nights when I blur my vision just enough

So he might seem like the boy whose voice I am beginning to forget,

You do not have to worry,

I will still get home safe.


Mama, he is a religious man.

Not the kind you wanted for me,

But he still fears God

And gets on his knees five times a day for him.

You will like him for this.


Mama, please stop saying that the boy was right for me

And how nice his family is.

I promise I have done my best,

I promise I have broken my heart, and ribs, and limbs,

In the ways you told me I never should,

For the boy I loved.

Mama, I learned that sacrifice

Is never enough to make someone stay.


Mama, weeks ago he stopped answering,

Months ago he stopped asking what I think and how I feel.

Mama, I think, years ago, I should have seen this coming,

So now that boy would not be the one who got away.


Mama, I understand now

What you mean when you say I have to take care of myself.

I never want to hear you say again

Not to cry so much,

Softly at the end of the telephone conversation,

After I thought no one had heard me last night.


Mama, does it ever stop?

And will I ever be able to be with him without wishing he was someone else?
Mama, I think this is what growing up means,

Giving up on fairytales and believing we would be different from everyone else.

Mama, I think it’s time to put all my poetry books away,

I hate how they made me think that fighting for love is always worth it in the end.


Mama, some mornings I still wake up into a nightmare.

Mama, every day, I swear, I would exchange

The Four Seasons for a tent,

And a passenger seat in that sports car

For the one in that old pickup truck.


Mama, he is a good man,

And you said I should take care of myself.

He looks at me like I shine stardust,

And I am learning not to look away from his gaze.