When I say, “mama”
I mean,
“You’re the only one in this god forsaken restaurant
Who actually means it when they smile.”

When I say, “mama”
I mean,
“I want to get clean and sober like you.”

When I say “mama”
I mean
“You have shown me love in action in a way
Only a mother could.”

When I say, “thank you for mothering my spirit”
I mean,
“I’ve needed my spirit mothered
Since the day I was born.”

When I say, “I don’t know how to thank you”
I mean
“I know I don’t have to thank you,
but the love I’ve known so far has always been
a transaction which demanded
Servitude and obedience as payment.”

When I hear “you are loved, always”
I almost believe it at face value,
But really,
I don’t even know how to begin to internalize it

When you say, “mama”
And grab my face and smile,
Demanding my attention,
And press your tiny feet into my back as you sleep,
I am crushed by the weight
Of my own potential to fail you
In all of the ways I have been failed

When I say, “mama loves you”
I mean
I am determined
To earn the title and bear it proudly,
Just as I bear my stretch marks
And softened flesh,
Just as I bear the beautiful burden
Of doing right you.
Because without you
I never would have known
What “mama” is supposed to mean.

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