‘My mother’s pronoun was not ‘it’, from Relativism by Mary Ford Neal

The publication of Relativism, the outstanding sophomore collection from Mary Ford Neal, draws ever closer and as promised we have for you a recording of another of its poems: ‘My mother’s pronoun was not ‘it”.

Artfully confronting themes of attachment, (be)longing, certainty, doubt, and our connections to places, times, people, and ideas, Relativism uses different voices and the lens of our most intimate relationships to explore various stages of life and states of knowledge, from confusion to enlightenment to doubt. You can pre-order a copy on our website here.


‘My mother’s pronoun was not ‘it” from Relativism by Mary Ford Neal, available July 9

My mother’s pronoun was not ‘it’
After Michael Conley, ‘An Otherwise Uneventful Holiday’


My mother was iridescent
soft with a sting
and although (naturally) she didn’t have a heart
she loved all 40,000 of us equally.
Human scientists have observed that
‘once the adult female jellyfish
has released its eggs into the water
it provides no further care for its young.’

Well, that’s a lie.
We were family. I’m sorry to dispute
the authority of human science
but I was there.
She’d take us swimming in the Aegean—
has your mother ever done that?
And she’d sing us to sleep with a great tenderness
completely inaudible to human scientists.
Then, because she loved us oh-so-much
she let us go.

I wish you could have seen my mother
in her element, the embodiment of grace—
not as she was at the end
a blob on the sand, drying out
under hostile, unseeing eyes.
I wish you all a mother capable
of giving so much life, and in return
asking only to swim, and swim.

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