My Mother Who Told Me

By Martha Silano

Featured Art: Mount Sainte-Victoire by Paul Cézanne

the Bible’s a Mount Everest of metaphor—
the seventh day more likely the seven

trillionth, the Holy Spirit about as real
as Casper the Friendly Ghost. My mother

who never once definitively sang
in the tune of Judgment, the lexicon

of flames. My equivocating, not-sure-he’s
the-Savior mother, who calls with an urgent

message: Billy Graham’s 95th birthday special.
Mother of Peace, mother who sanctioned

my Sunday school exodus when my teacher
refused to define adultery, who rolled her eyes

at shiny offering plates, who yadda yadda’d
the Lord’s Prayer, mother too busy browsing

The Female Eunuch to read to us from the book
of Jonah, to reason a man could live three days

in the belly of a whale, mother lacking sufficient
conviction to share the story of the loaves and fishes,

inciting me to fall to my knees as I did one day in 1974,
the man on the screen having told me I must.


Martha Silano has authored five books of poetry, most recently Gravity Assist (Saturnalia Books, 2019). She also authored The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice. Her poems have appeared in Paris Review, Poetry, and Best American Poetry, among others. Honors include North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Prize, the Cincinnati Review’s Robert and Adele Schiff Poetry Prize, and a Pushcart Prize Special Mention. Martha teaches at Bellevue College and Seattle’s Hugo House.

Originally published in NOR 18: Fall 2015

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