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By Elisabeth Frost
Brought to you by the Guernica/PEN Flash Series

It’s simple. There is the mother and there is the daughter. Large hand and small. Knowing things and not. It’s the mother who sets up can and can’t. The mother who gives happiness and unhappiness. Gives birth to yes and the everlasting no.

But then there are daughters who become mothers, confusing the story because as mothers they remain, by definition, also daughters. How do they know which they are? When they come to the curb, are they allowed to cross?

Then there are the daughters who act as mothers, who are not the mothers, biological or adoptive, to any child, but rather who try forever to give birth to their own mothers, enormous weighty babies curled up inside them, hiding in the daughter’s placenta, doubled over in grief, while the daughter, the one they think they made all by themselves, holds the hand, and holds also the head, unwise and old and greedy, the enormous unconscious head, which refuses to move, refuses to think, let alone come out from between the daughter’s skinny, uncapable thighs.

Elisabeth Frost’s books are All of Us: Poems (White Pine Press), The Feminist Avant-Garde in American Poetry (Iowa), and the chapbooks A Theory of the Vowel (Red Glass Books) and Rumor (Mermaid Tenement Books). Her work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Poetry, Yale Review, and elsewhere, and she has received grants from the Fulbright Foundation, The Rockefeller-Bellagio Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and others. Frost is Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Fordham University, where she also edits the Poets Out Loud Prizes poetry series from Fordham Press.

Aditi Sriram

Aditi Sriram’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Guardian, Narratively, and, best of all, Guernica. Visit her website to read more of her work.

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