My mother always smelled like ex’•cla•ma’•tion:
a blend of peach, apricot, amber, sandalwood
menthol cigarettes
and box chardonnay.
When I was a little girl, she would send me into the gas station
with ten dollars, I’d say:
A pack of Kool Milds and the rest on pump 5.
Mom, siblings and I squish into a tiny booth
made from recycled church pews
at Michno’s Café. It wasn’t a café.
They served mini tacos and cheese sticks.
The ceiling glowed in neon pink
recessed lighting.
The day shift bartender let us gobble
maraschino cherries from the waitress station.
In elementary school, I could recite
my address and phone number
and Michno’s
phone number. 532 – 9212.
Hi, is my mom there?
Yeah, honey. Hang on.


My mother never ate breakfast, only coffee. Black.
If I woke up before dawn, she would be up reading
mystery novels
her skinny frame in an extra-large T shirt
her pale Irish legs propped up on a vinyl kitchen chair
a bridge for Shadow
our black cat, to curl up on.
She always said she hated cats.
She said breakfast was the most important meal of the day.


My mother had five kids. We had a never ending
laundry pile,
so big that the clothes on the bottom
were no longer in season. If you wanted to win,
hide and go seek
you could disappear
in its musty embrace.


My mother’s bed filled with her children
when she worked midnights.
Her frameless bed
was pressed into the corner of a small room
level with the open windows.
She would sing lullabies into a night breeze:
Fleetwood Mac’s Landside
We could hear her start up
the red station wagon
roll out of the driveway next to the
window where we lay
side by side by side by side by side
and listen as the wheels crossed over
from the dirt road we lived on
to the pavement that began at end of our block.
Lead us not into temptation.


My mother was Catholic. Family photos were always posed
by the white and blue
of the Virgin Mary statue
under my grandmother’s apple blossom tree.
We believed in miracles,
in dancing rings around the sun.
When my perfect cousin was born,
grown-ups stopped taking pictures of the older kids
with brown eyes, brown hair.
Perfect cousin’s
perfect blue eyes saw angels once. The Aunts gossiped
about how her prayers
had turned a silver rosary gold.
One jealous night I climbed into my mom’s bed
to tell her that I could see angels, too.
Forgive us our trespasses.


My mother always kept doors open.
She also kept a diary. I found it in her bedroom
when I was eleven. I entered
the living room stage right.
I pretended to be Shakespearian,
holding her diary like script.
She has never hit me
though I think back on her tired eyes
and I wish she would have.
Deliver us from evil.


My mother wrote a parenting column for the local Observer.
When I was a teenager,
I wore only black. At the donut shop downtown,
a friend and I found an abandoned
newspaper at the counter.
We edited my mother’s article, poking holes
in her narrative,
deriding her advice.
I forgot I had tucked it in
my pants pocket.
Mother handed it back to me two days later.
wrinkled and open.
Behind her coke bottle glasses,
her jade eyes were dry and puffy pink:
Here, she said.


My mother died within the
confines of a weekend. She was planning
a baby shower for my first child
At the time, I did not know that she had borrowed
the money for the party
against the rent on her tiny one-bedroom house.
She called to apologize that the potato salad
would need to be picked up.
She was at St. Mary’s hospital. No she didn’t want
me to come up there. Not to worry, the potato salad
was already made. Just a little stomach pain, is all.
More tests on the way.
But most importantly:
Don’t forget the potato salad.


My mother lit up like a Christmas tree
under the MRI:
Chemo would certainly kill her,
the oncologist told me, as his eyes wandered from her bursting
to my bursting stomach.
I read her the book of Romans
while the morphine draped over her like a pall.
Forever and ever Amen.

Zetetic separator

—Kate Lollio is a mother of three and full time caregiver for her husband, who is a disabled US Army Veteran. A college student from Brighton, Michigan, she enjoys her rare and valuable free time by writing poems and short stories that reflect both the beauty and harsh reality of life in the working class

Leave a Reply