Letter to Persephone, Before Mother’s Day: A Poem by Sarah A. Etlinger

Postage stamps
Photo by Ali Bakhtiari on Unsplash

Letter to Persephone, Before Mother’s Day

(after Erika Meitner’s “Letter on Gratitude”)

Dear Persephone, today I stood on line at the post office to buy stamps so I could mail
my Mother’s Day cards & I wondered What would a Mother’s Day card from Hell look like?

These are the things I think about. These cards have rhinestones, filigree butterflies & bright-
colored calligraphed expressions of gratitude, as if fuchsia envelopes & happy birds

can make anything about motherhood easier. The moment I affix the stamps & slide the cards into
the mail slot they are wheeling my mother into surgery for her hysterectomy, removing my place

of origin —        all the cells that were in my mother & grandmother before I was an I, before my
mother was an I, before my grandmother even knew there was a thing called love. I confess I don’t

know how to feel about it. Sometimes when I talk about love I am really thinking about metaphor.
About death. I should feel like an orphan. I don’t. I told a friend I thought you were brave. I want

to be like you. You have taken what you were given — desiccated seeds — & grew them
into a kingdom & you blessed them without your mother’s blessing, knowing she was somewhere

still angry. Sometimes I feel like a gull soaring above the grocery store parking lot searching
for any scrap to make a home, a life foraged from shards & ribbon. We can all sing.

We can all make something from nothing. I want to be like you. I want to know my mother is there
without having to feel her sadness. Can we ever get away from feeling another’s sadness?

I should feel homeless. I don’t. Except my body won’t stop swaying, as if it were a boat let loose
on the open water near a dusky horizon.

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