by Paulette Demers Turco

Stand tall and hold the pins like this.
It’s time you know your mother’s story.
You know I graduated high school–
wanted to be a nurse. I could’ve
been like Florence Nightingale,
heroic, saving soldiers’ lives
in World War II. But when your dad
proposed, I had to choose. I promised
he’d be my husband once the war
was through. Who knew five years would pass.
His right ear was deaf from birth.
Still the army took him–proud
to serve–but came home nearly deaf
at twenty-six. I loved him, knew

I could manage motherhood,
but you? You only see yourself.
Dear, I’ve tried to teach you. But–
stand still–you're proud, believe that you
can change the world. I learned to live
invisible and so must you.

You’ve had too many graduations
and still you want more years in school?
Marriage AND career is not
what girls are born and raised to do.
You were not born to be in charge.
Even on our wedding day
all women promise to obey.
Look at me, at me, for once.
Our lives are lived invisible
to everyone. You want attention?
We can give each other hugs,
then back to work. It’s the only
way this life can work. Obey,
do your duty, pray to be
in Heaven for eternity.

Now stand straight, this final fit
must be exact–this wedding dress–
Unh! Your shoulders are so wide.

Poem first appeared in Loch Raven Review April, 2021


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