Sylvia Cohen

                                                                      “Tell them not to cry.
                                                                        Tell them in the storm
                                                                        A drop of blood is thinking…” 
                                                                                              -- Steve Becker
My mother is talking to the radio
My mother is talking to her plants
There is a talk show on the radio
My mother is talking to the talk show
She’s angry and the talk show isn’t listening
The radio is also angry at something
(I can’t tell what)
People are angry
The host of the talk show is cutting people off
Who want to say something
My mother is angry at that
She loves the talk shows
She talks to the radio
Gets angry at crazy callers and reactionary hosts
She tells me someone called up and said
“Joseph McCarthy was a great patriot, a great American”
My mother told me she once called up
And tried to say something about education in Cuba
“I saw it with my own eyes!” she told them
But the radio didn’t listen
The host said “Thank you for calling”
In a voice that said “I hate you”
And my mother is transplanting the plants
Which have grown too big for little pots
And now need big pots
The roots are all bunched up
Twisted around themselves a million times
My mother calls me in to help her
With a hammer she breaks the flowerpot I hold
“Look at these roots!” she cries
My mother with a hammer in her hand
My mother is talking to the radio
My mother is talking to the plants
I don’t want her to be cut off
I want my mother to be heard
I want my mother’s roots
-- twisted around themselves a million times
But still strong and surging with life –
To make their way
To make room
For her growth
My mother has had limbs chopped off
My mother has lived in a flowerpot way too small
This morning she described her life as a tiny circle
She traced the circle on the yellow blanket
She was sewing
Her eyes looked so sad
My mother is the sculpture of pain she made
My mother is beginning to sculpt her own life
Hammer in hand
At 61 my mother
Is talking to the world!

                                    -- New York, February 7, 1977 (from There is a Country)

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