Things My Mother Gave Me

Charlotte Newberger Poetry Contest - Third Place

I wrote this with a bright green
plastic Frankenstein pen
my mom sent me from Texas.
She would call it a tchotchke,
a nothing
a cheap little piece of mass-produced junk
picked out of the 99 cent bin at McFrugal’s.
A stripe of orange shirt, a flat black head
a goofy buck-toothed smile.
This is Frankenstein made nice
clean and safe for the costumed children of America’s middle class. 

This is the way my mother loves me from afar.
She reaches out of her loneliness to send me little candles
shaped like Pilgrims and pumpkins,
rainbow slinkies,
little grinning cats dressed like Puritans,
presiding over miniature tombstones.
My mother,
who knows something about ghosts
and the dead of the night,
who keeps company with her memories
through sleepless hours,
sends me the sanitized stuff
America buys to stave off our nightmares. 

My mother,
who always wanted me to lose weight,
sends me honey cake and cookies,
star-shaped pasta and Passover candy.
Like many Jewish mothers before her,
she tries to love me with food when words fail.
The cookies arrive shattered into crumbs.
Someone else made the honey cake.
I never cooked the pasta.
But she remembers that I like the fruit slices,
and I don’t like macaroons.

Jennifer Bloustine lives in Guatemala