Hannah Keziah Agustin, "This isn’t an ode to my mother"

pc: Ana Pierson

pc: Ana Pierson

This isn’t an ode to my mother

Mama gave birth in a syzygy
Gutted herself clean
Purging her insides of the cold
And cumbersome across
Her belly marred in remembrance
Her scream a billow of incense        gentle
    Oscillating the room into white noise
    A prayer her whole body laments for

She was eviscerated
Of rubicund flesh
Bare teeth gnashing from the inferno
Incinerating its way to earth

Sundered from skin and bone
Tethered her umbilical cord
Around my hand like a lifeline;
Knew that I’ll cry “Wolf!” one day
    And she won’t be able to save me

Her womanhood is an open wound
Torn to knit the archetype of her agony
Her permanent epidural








Mama straitjackets me to sleep / smothers me to silence /sews my wrists shut when I try turning myself inside out tries to find parts of me worth saving / that when I get too sad she calls an ambulance / I’ve sunk this shipwreck far too many times / can’t cry “Wolf!” underwater / can’t cry under water / she still couldn’t love me enough to keep me from drowning / and I tell her it it isn’t her fault / yet she confesses guilt as her eighth deadly sin / the crushing weight of repentance / calls herself out on being a bad mother / asks God where she went wrong / repents / repents again / prays for me in my sleep / prays harder when I’m awake / weeds out the splinters on my thighs / sutures my seams shut / without exorcising my demons








Mama taught me the word sorry
That when I scraped my knees clean
I watched as she contorted herself
         Into contrition; into penitence
A prayer her whole body laments for
I was six and since
    I’ve never stopped apologizing
    For being a bad daughter
        Again and again
                Again out of habit
                The way she does when
        She tells me
        She isn’t enough
        She doesn’t know that
              I hold her
                   missing parts
                   Her womb an unlocked bank
I am her archetype, her agony
The epidural that ripped her apart        gently
                   For nine months
                   And sixteen years        
    I couldn’t even say sorry
    The way she taught me to

Hannah Schneider