546: Ouroboros (Or: A Brief Dip Into the Relationship I Have with My Mother)

546: Ouroboros (Or: A Brief Dip Into the Relationship I Have with My Mother)

546: Ouroboros (Or: A Brief Dip Into the Relationship I Have with My Mother)


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

If you ever talk to, say, another human being, you will understand how complicated a relationship with the mother can be. It doesn’t matter if you’re related by blood, or what your gender is, or if she’s still living ⏤ the human/mother relationship is powerful, loaded, full of all the narrative threads that make great art, and bad art, and life.

I, myself, have never been a mother, will never be a mother, but my own relationship with my mother drives me on some level. I know many friends who have had toxic mothers, mothers who hurt them, or set them up for hurt, but mostly I think of how often we take our mothers for granted. How they become invisible in our lives. We think everything is happening to us, only us, that we are the center of the story.

But of course we’re not always the center of the story. Our mothers, whether we knew them or not, are also in the story, and their mothers' mothers, and so on.

In today’s thoughtful poem, we see the speaker skillfully navigate the complicated relationship with her own mother and how, through it all, she begins to recognize her mother’s individual self, the self beyond the child, the self that wants to be seen as human.

Ouroboros (Or: A Brief Dip into the Relationship I Have with My Mother)
by Juliette Givhan

It’s January and I’m cold,
reading Nature Poem

& Tommy Pico is asking
if 30 is too old for a nose ring

& I think of my mother,
who for the last five years

has told us every Christmas
she “doesn’t want anything”

except maybe to go
get a nose ring,

a request no one
has ever taken seriously,

& the older she gets
the more I realize

I have become a snake,
eating herself alive over it.

I think of my mother,
how she’s white

& I’m not,
how the distance between us

lets me love her
in a way I can’t/haven’t/

don’t know how to/
in person.

How she takes I-25
to Fort Collins

every few weeks
to have her hair dyed

a shade

of human fragility
that will never match

the ruddy brown
it used to be.

How, she’s an Aries,
so of course when I told her

she looks like Barb
from Stranger Things,

(or more accurately Barb
looks like my mother when she was young)

she got mad,
assumed the comparison

was meant
to be an attack

that I was calling her ugly.

She didn’t hear
how I cried for Barb

who deserved
so much better

than the shit bag Nancy’s
& Steve’s in her life,

not hearing
how I cried

for a young mother
who had hardened

after her own life
of being shit on—

Whenever I try
to write a poem

about my mother
all I can think about

is how much these words
would hurt her

if she ever read them.

How this snake
can’t escape

eating herself,
causing damage

even when the point all along
was just to say

I’m sorry

for never fixing
what’s broken between us.

For never taking you
to get your nose pierced.

"Ouroboros (Or: A Brief Dip into the Relationship I Have with My Mother)" by Juliette Givhan. Originally published in Querencia. Used by permission of the poet.