The Other Mothers



When the first heart began to beat, a new mother
landed inside me, a white crane on the bank of a river.

My body reached its logical conclusion, red blood
over white feathers.

When the second heart swelled
my breasts against my sweater, another mother
arrived bringing her blue ache
between my legs until

that heart silenced, the breasts
softened but still
the ache went on and on.

When the third heart never started, cold
and flinty as a box of matches (will there ever

be light here)

the third mother soaked the blood, not much, from the sheets.


And if anything is more willful
than one angry mother
it’s a group of mothers—

everyone knows it’s a murder of crows but did you know
it’s an unkindness of ravens or a parliament of owls?

We call it a labor of moles, a cackle of hyenas,
a pandemonium of parrots

but how should we classify this collective of mothers,
this mob of rage and instinct that keeps this body
moving beyond the grieving


of mothers with nothing
to mother?


Places the blood has brought us:
zzour own shower all evening watching the drain
zza Planned Parenthood in Van Nuys
zza bathroom at a midtown restaurant winding toilet paper around our palm
zza gas station line
zzhours past midnight deep in internet chat rooms
zzan emergency room, locking eyes with the attending, trying
zzto reach the mother beyond her mask, pleading
zzdon’t let me lose this one

but that is the thing about mothers
they cannot mother everyone


Repetition becomes the device
the other mothers my birthrights

and each new heartbeat’s wild
panicked furious hopeful tearful terrified
wondrous hysterical ponderous unraveling holy mother,
breasts full of milk, mouth full of lullabies,

because when a heart stops beating
what it beat for doesn’t disappear.

Sara Femenella