All My Mad Mothers
My mother gathered every yellow object she could find:
daffodils and gorgeous shawls, little pots of bile
and piles of lemons. Once we caught her with a pair
of fishnet stockings on a stick, trying to catch the sun.
My mother never travelled anywhere without her flippers,
goggles and a snorkel. She’d strip at any opportunity:
The Thames, The Serpentine, the shallows of a garden pond,
a puddle in the park. She was no judge of depth.
My mother was a dipterologist, sucking fruit flies through a straw.
Our house was filled with jars of corpses on display.
Sometimes she’d turn them out, too dead to flee, their wings
still glinting, make them into chokers for our party bags.
My mother barely spoke between her bruises:
her low cut gown was tea-stained silk. From behind
her Guccis or Versaces, she would serve us salty dinners,
stroke a passing cheek, or lay her head on any waiting shoulder.
My mother was an arsonist. She kept a box of matches
in her bra, lined up ranks of candles, ran her pretty fingers
through the flames. At full moon, she would drag
our beds into the garden, set them alight and howl.
My mother was a fine confectioner. We’d come upon her sponges,
softly decomposing under sweaters in a drawer, or oozing
sideways in a filing cabinet. Once, between her pearls and
emerald rings, we found a maggot gateau, iced with mould.
My mother was so hard to grasp: once we found her
in a bath of extra-virgin olive oil, her skin well slicked.
She’d stocked the fridge with lard and suet, butter: salted
and unsalted, to ease her way into this world. Or out of it.
(first published in the Anthology of Motherhood, The Emma Press)
Why not get it sorted in that lull
between O’levels and results,
and before I went to Paris
for the summer job
where anything might happen?
I could consider losing it
with Ian who found me fascinating;
ignore his nascent paunch
at only seventeen
forget his parents lived in Borehamwood;
my mother kept saying, to drag
the weight of it
along with my other baggage
all that way across the English Channel.
Jacqueline Saphra’s The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions (flipped eye, 2011) was nominated for The Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. A book of illustrated prose poems, If I Lay on my Back I saw Nothing but Naked Women, (The Emma Press 2014) won Best Collaborative Work at the Saboteur Awards 2015. All My Mad Mothers is just published by Nine Arches Press (May 2017) and available here. A Bargain with the Light: Poems after Lee Miller is due from Hercules Editions in September 2017. She teaches at The Poetry School. Twitter @JSaphra