From Issue 25: "Mother's Hips" by Carmen Calatayud (poetry)

Reading time:  Approximately 3 minutes

In this haunting poem where the narrator encounters the dead, the landscape of  dream is a place of unresolved pain. I loved the almost magical arrival of the cat and the transcendent peace in those final couplets. 

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Jessica Cuello

Poetry Editor

Mother’s Hips

by Carmen Calatayud

In the dream someone keeps repeating 

that my mother is dead. 


I keep saying no, she is frozen

because she is of the frozen people

who can’t recover from never being safe.


My mother looks at me as though she isn’t here,

stares at an invisible constellation.


In the dream I prop her up against the wall,

teach her to give birth to the north node. 


In the dream she is slumped over the toilet,

ambulance siren closing in, another Valium overdose.


In the dream I tell her my name four times,

wait for her to say my name please say my name.


In the dream my mother’s pelvis murmurs in blue. 

It tilts toward the hinge of shivering.


In the dream she fades under a male corpse.

She doesn’t say I can’t speak but I hear her.


In the dream the cat we named Nina appears.

Her onyx fur reflects flying stars. 


In the dream Nina is warm to the touch.

Mother’s eyes the color of milk.

***reprinted with permission of the poet




Carmen Calatayud had this to say about her work:

I had just completed a personal essay about rape—my own, and my mother’s rape—and the trauma she experienced as a result of surviving her sexually abusive father and the London bombings of World War II as a child. Mother’s Hips was written two years after her death from COVID. I’m still grappling with her death and all she has meant to me. This poem unfolded as though her death were a dream, and it became a brief, surreal snapshot of how she was always dying during her life, in one way or another.

Carmen Calatayud is the daughter of immigrants, and her book In the Company of Spirits (Press 53, 2012) was a runner-up for the Academy of American Poets Walt Whitman Award.