A girl grows into a woman and le..." /> Mothers and daughters: A POEM - Mutha Magazine


Published on December 14th, 2017 | by Juniper Fitzgerald


Mothers and daughters: A POEM

A girl grows into a woman and learns that she is a clone of her mother. Mammals can do this, sometimes,

the cloning part.

She grapples with the fact that she is a copy of the very thing she does not understand.

My mother has cancer.

Years ago, my mother disowned me. We were on her porch,

Unseasonably warm weather.

What do you want? She asked.

Support and love, I said.

What does that mean?

I work in the sex industry.

Are you a junkie?

Why is that your first question?

Get out. Don’t ever come back.

I washed my plate before leaving. I left and then bought a baggie of something white, white like the snow, like the thing I really longed for, like silence and stillness.

My heart is calm like snowfall, my daughter’s book reads.

And then my mother’s mother died.

The morning of the funeral, I awoke next to my girlfriend, hungover, still drunk maybe. I couldn’t find my clothes and so I wore the only dress I could find in the rubble of our now deceased love. She was a skinny girl and so her velvet green dress was much too short for me, much too short for a funeral.

You smell like smoke.

That’s because I smoke, mom.

My mother has cancer.

A few years ago, surrounded by family, my mother said, aloud “I’m so happy you are back in my life.” And she began to cry.

I had my own daughter.

She died for a few minutes in childbirth lots of white coats a sense of lightness of snow of something out of this world in my hospital room I saw my grandmother I saw everything between this world and others. And my mother hugged me.

Everything is OK, she said. Everything is ok now.

And I wept in her arms.


I cannot touch myself. I cannot reach up in, inside, where there used to be something there is now nothing. The things that brought my child into this world are no longer there and I am afraid that if I reach up inside into it all and feel nothing I will be reminded of the nothingness of life generally not to mention the nothingness of creating life in a body that no longer has life to give.

In my neighborhood there is a constant buzzing sound from the towers that reach up into the sky but there is also gentrification so these two worlds collide every morning when the joggers are out and the junkies leave the bar and there is always a child yelling, “mama!”

And while it is traditional to think of this situation as, conveniently, something to do with junkies, it is usually a child desperately trying to keep up with their jogging mother. And I find, as I always do, that I relate more to junkies than joggers.

In my neighborhood, a little girl got hit by a car.

And it took 15 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

She was the third child to be struck by a car in a month’s time. Because people drive fast here. Because they have to get to their job. Or they have to escape something. They have to move fast fast fast or else they risk losing everything.

And in that thing, that thing that propels people faster and faster, there is an insidious and purposeful destruction of community. But not because of the junkies.

My mother has cancer. And I am the only one who knows it.

My mother was the only person who witnessed my grandmother’s death.

My mother uses this as evidence of my grandmother’s torture.

Why me why me why me why couldn’t you die when other people were around you you did this on purpose so that I would have to live with your death in solitude forever…

Why are you wearing my wedding ring, my grandmother asked me.

Because you are dead. Because it was a gift.

I awoke in Las Vegas. A tiny flat in Las Vegas filled to the brim with the fumes of meth making. And I looked at my grandmother. And I saw her.

I only made $20 at the strip club that night. And I gave it all to the taxi driver who then grabbed my tits. And I knew then as I know now that I will not give anything to anyone unless they are worthy of it.

My child, having the wit and resourcefulness of an ancient soul, made her way to the cookie jar.

And she climbed across mountains and made her way through jungles, the foliage, she made her way past an unrelenting and fierce dog to reach what she wanted most. And despite being concerned about nutrition

and such

and all those things we talk about as mothers performing motherhood,

I was so fucking proud.

Of course, I thought about the ingredients of those cookies. And I thought about her exposure to carcinogens. And I thought about her dying. And then I thought that maybe she will be elderly when she dies, surrounded by love, but most likely, dear fucking god please, not in my lifetime.

I raked up six bags of leaves at my mother’s house. The walls are all painted over there, in beige,

she used to let me paint murals on the walls.

And my brother told me that he is in love. He drank water instead of vodka and it made me hopeful that he too will survive.

It is likely that my mother will shit her pants for the rest of her life.

Freud, in so many words, argued that a fear of feces was the manifestation of a fear of death.

My mother has cancer.

And she showed me pictures of her colon. And she showed me the disease that has taken up residency there.

When I was a little girl, my mother used to joke that I was a pain in her ass because giving birth to me gave her hemorrhoids. And now I have seen the insides of my mother’s asshole.

Once, a judge argued that “a whore is a whore is a whore”.

I have a neighbor who does things for me… Like, he cleans my house and brings me wine when I need it.

We all become our mothers, he said. My mother hurts others the way that she was hurt, he said.

We no longer know whose fantasy this is.

A girl grows into a woman. Maybe she is a clone who fucking cares.

And maybe she grows into a woman wearing 7 inch heels. And then, one day, she is raking up leaves. And she remembers all of the times that she used to sneak out of her window her mother’s window really because after all it was her mother who paid the bills all on her own

and she doesn’t even think about the changes in the seasons, only concerned with finding cigarettes,

not even thinking that someday, her mother

appears to her as mortal.

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About the Author

Juniper Fitzgerald is a mother, former sex worker, and academic based in the Midwest. Her children’s book, How Mamas Love Their Babies, was published by Feminist Press in 2018 and was the first to feature a sex-working parent. She contributed to We Too: Essays on Sex Work and Survival and her memoir, Enjoy Me Among My Ruins, is out now. She holds a PhD in sociology.

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