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My Mother and I, Together

27 April, 2015: My Mother and I, Together


by Rita Grabowski
My Mother and I, Together
I am wearing short, white, cotton gloves
and a pink nylon dress with a petticoat
that would shred cabbage.
On the ramp landings of Public Hall
are stands that sell refreshments.
They call it Claret Punch —
toutes des fruits, over thick half-moons
of ice, heavy as lead crystal.
I am eight, or nine,
my mother and I, together.
The same mother who, a few years later,
would shoplift the dresses she couldn’t afford
as I went with her to the fitting room.
She held her finger to her lips,
thinking, perhaps, that I wanted to scream,
while she rolled, folded, and stuffed;
the mother who would move men
into the house I worked to keep;
one fell drunken, smoking, asleep,
setting the mattress on fire;
one fed mother’s French Bull Terrier
bits of broken lightbulb mixed with Alpo.
The same mother who almost seemed to brag
about how she expected a boy,
how she ate can after can of Vienna sausage
while pregnant with me.
There was only so much I could do.
Even scalding water and Lysol douches
refused to disinfect.
“My Mother and I, Together,” by Rita Grabowski, from My Life as a Nerve. Pudding House Press, 2001. Used by permission of the author.
Rita Grabowski is a double alumna of Cleveland State University, and a NEOMFA student working on her nonfiction thesis to complete her MFA in creative writing. She is the author of a poetry chapbook, My Life as a Nerve (Pudding House Press, 2001), and has published poetry and prose in a number of journals and anthologies. Currently working for the Doctoral Studies Program in the College of Education and Human Services at Cleveland State University, she has also owned a restaurant with her husband Gary, has written and published numerous restaurant reviews and food related articles and features, and worked for the Cleveland State University Poetry Center.


Memories make great poetry.

Write about a shopping trip you took with one of your parents or grandparents or with a childhood friend. Try to pinpoint the year it took place and include something in the poem from that year which no longer exists.
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READ + WRITE: 30 Days of Poetry is a collaboration between Cuyahoga County Public Library and poet Diane Kendig. Our thanks go to Diane and the poets of Northeast Ohio who allowed us to share their poetry.