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Photo by Colin A. Danville

For mothers and daughters who struggle over love in this here garden
© 2015 by Binahkaye Joy

Ain’t nothing to be afraid of, baby
the mirror
is just an anchor
something to hold y’all together
so’s you can’t never run away
                                                            ~Ma Bethel

All of her is some reflection of you
there can be beauty
if you look hard enough
there can be pain
in the secrets you keep
long-winded blood secrets
that stay unbroken
mother to daughter
daughter to mother
just the weight of being a woman
pounds we make and pounds we find
the knots of understanding can get so heavy
One day it will all make sense, she warns
you won’t have to keep asking those same questions

There are parts of the story she can’t mouth
the words won’t come, the truth won’t always
be something to slice up over sweet potato pie
sip down with cups of tea reheated repeatedly in the microwave
things grow cold if you let them

She will say she doesn’t recognize you
when you are echoing in her memories
stuff she did, lies you told
it’s all here
captured between you in shared breaths,
hands resting on the belly, fast kisses
before long goodbyes
no one wants to hold it all by herself
the truth is a burden
waiting to take over

She will show you what you’re not dealing with
about yourself
shine a light in
all the places
you are afraid to go
it will get harder and harder to deny
that she is the sum of choices you could not
would not make

The love never goes missing
even when some flowers grow
from rage, or shame, or
this union is a garden
that must feed you both
mother to daughter
daughter to mother
some eternal bloom
even death won’t dissolve

She will never really tell you all
you didn’t live up to be, though
she will have mercy on your imperfections
she won’t be able to just invade
that delicate peace you know as yourself
only some answers will seep out over the years
and she’ll still cushion the hard facts with
something soft to protect your fall
when the spoken words have wrung you dry
she’ll bring you the water
and cry about the rest of it on her own time

There is nothing simple about this work
waiting for the perfect moment
to admit the hardest part of it all:
I see through you
but it may take forever before you figure out how to
unravel your tongue
so in the meantime
you piece your meanings together like
a quilt that will never be finished
concede the edges that don’t want to be mended
forgive the patches that move on without proper explanation
allow the loose threads to just dangle there
existing as you do in the candor of their indecipherable beginnings
their frayed and hopeful endings

This is just the way it is
mother to daughter
daughter to mother
the binding will not get lost
even if we do


I am fascinated by the dynamics of mother-daughter relationships, those in my own family, and those I see out in the world. Observing the layered and complex realities shared between women of the same family–identity, memory, values, choices– is a large part of my mothering process. I am also exploring poetry in new ways as I develop material for Booty Folklore and journey deeper into this work that is mother, that is woman, that is artist.