February 2022 Prize Winner!

This poem won the Poetry Prompt Prize for February 2022. It is inspired by Karen Solie's writing prompt "Respond to Art”.

Poetry Editor Therese Estacion writes about "Mother Never Taught You to Strum Tendons" by Maya Mior: It is not easy to write poems about mothers. Yet, Mior has powerfully captured the tragic energy we often encounter when wondering, at the wake of our relationship with “mother”, how beauty can be held despite being put together all wrong.

Mother never taught you to strum tendons

Maya Mior

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And now mother is promising that you were
never born at all. Now mother is promising
that you had put yourself together, bit by
aching bit. Mother is a sinner no more,
mother is exonerated and you are silent
at her trial. You are making music on
tattered keys with bloodied hands.
And you cannot face yourself during it all,
repulsed by the music, you are
disgusted and lonely and deafening
(maybe, if you cause a constant cacophony
it might become part of the furniture. You might
be able to rest your newspaper there without
destroying your eardrums). Mother is deaf.
Mother is disinterested and you are resting
your weary arms. This instrument is heavy, your
breaths hold water. Your pages are empty,
you are trying to make something beautiful, you are
watching the terrible take place and
you are wondering how you might write some
pretty melody. You are playing your bruises.
The keys are out of tune, nothing here can be gorgeous,
the chair is creaking and you are becoming
part of the furniture. This is nothing appealing,
you have made nothing beautiful you have
put yourself together all wrong. There is
red where there should not be and your
vocal chords strum the wrong notes. And
mother knows how to carve bones to toothpicks
and knives but mother can’t help with scales. And you are
again a boy. Asking your mother to have made you.