My Mother Washes the Kitchen with Her Face

by Sam Herschel Wein

She can be tired, awake until 2AM then making 
breakfast at 7AM just in from 6AM jogging, 
two blueberry pancakes slid onto the plate 
from the buttery pan, she’s exhausted, her own mother 
ailing for 13 years, losing her memory, forgetting 
who we all were, then dying, she’s crying, hiding behind
the door so no one can hear. She works 12-hour days
at the hospital and her eyes sink to the floor 
when she gets home, still, she cooks dinner, 
her husband who says thank you says I feel guilty 
all of a sudden, she never followed her dreams, 
she wanted to be a writer? A musician? A lawyer? 
But he doesn’t question too much, falls asleep 
on the couch, and my mother washes the kitchen 
up with her face, still unchanged, she looks like 
how I remember her, at the dinner table, 
coming out and 17 and in my tennis clothes, 
she’s crying, sighing, for days, around the house, her face, 
next to mine in my bed, hymns, guitar, her gentle, 
perfectly pitched harmonies, every moment with her 
sends my mind back into my memories, like when she 
would make homemade pizza loafs that sliced into rolls 
whenever my friends came over, her face, working 
incessantly, the kitchen, the holiday dinners of brisket 
and chicken and brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes 
and lemon curd dripping over a matzoh-meal dairy-free cake, 
the gentler evenings, when we’re all relaxing and she worries, 
and she’s up late nights, every nights, that exhaustion, 
a lifetime, but it’s still her face, after I write the poems 
about her, after she says I should stay quiet just be quiet 
about being gay, after she shows up to my chapbook 
release party, and I think, look at us, trying 
so hard to look like the love we have to give, to look like 
two hands assembling homemade cookies, 
5 different kinds, onto silver trays, passed down 
from her mother, from her mother’s mother, to me


Sam Herschel Wein (he/they) is a Chicago-based poet who specializes in perpetual frolicking. Their second chapbook, GESUNDHEIT!, a collaboration with Chen Chen, was part of the 2019-2020 Glass Poetry Press Series. He co-founded and edits Underblong. Recent work can be found in perhappened magThe Adroit Journal, and Sundog Lit, among others.