CONDITION OF THE MOTHER by Monica Prince


Granny made cane wine for her family, my mother says. We’ve ordered glasses of Riesling, the first I’ve seen her drink in public since I was seventeen.

She reveals how everyone got to drink some, even the little kids, following special meals.

My grandmother was both deeply religious and deeply spiritual: a believer in Jesus and Obeah, fearful of spirits and the Devil.

Rightfully so. She poured wine on the ground for absent friends—those we lost, those we never got to know. My mother doesn’t say it, but she means my stillborn aunt and six-month-old uncle, both dead.

Someone said enslaved women waited three days to name their babies, just to see if it was worth naming them, making permanence in a world that seeks to erase. (It is.)

Some were brave—suffocated their children while they slept, inhaled well water upon learning they were with child.

Some were braver—raised fetuses into warriors, made their own bodies a sacrifice in hopes that those babies would become stone towers and fire-tipped arrows, become my family tree, full of fearless women with dark eyes.

I want a daughter, I tell my mother.

Not now, but one day. A Black one.

She says with her bloodline, I’ll have two.

Their names appear to me in a dream later, the wine long finished, my mother safe in her own home. I don’t whisper them aloud for fear they won’t come to be.

I get my superstition from my grandmother, my recipe for cheesecake from her daughter.

Love opens us so we may give birth to semi-permanence, pass it down like an engagement ring, a family Bible, sickle cell trait. My mother doesn’t know I’m in love, that wine sustains me when he’s away, how, without trying, we try for the daughters I so badly wish for.

I want to raise queens, ones as elegant as my mother, her mother, her mother.

I want to raise them into a beauty I barely understand, but crave, its taste just behind my teeth.

MONICA PRINCE received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing with a focus in poetry from Georgia College & State University in 2015, and her Bachelors of Arts degree in English Creative Writing from Knox College in 2012. She has been a teaching artist in Georgia, Texas, and now Colorado since 2012. Her work has been featured in MadCap Review, The Santa Fe Writers Project Quarterly, The Sula Collective, and The Rain, Party & Disaster Society. Her choreopoem, Testify, was produced by the Cutout Theater in Brooklyn, NY in December 2015. Currently, she teaches, writes, and performs in Denver, CO. ​

<Paul Tran ** Nadim Choufi>