“In English Class, Discussing Signs & Symbols” by Mary Ellen Redmond

Mary Ellen Redmond


In the same way she’d told me that she’d eaten waffles
with blueberries for breakfast,
Deja raised her hand, said
My birthmother died from an overdose. 
The words, comfortable in her mouth,
found room there.
I’ve always wanted a sign from her.
Her eyes locked into mine.
A shrug.                                
But last night, I had this dream:
I was in a boat with a woman
who I think was my mother, 
her hair pulled back with a red scarf.
We were on a lake & the water slapped
the side of the boat. She was paddling …
Her voice trailed off.
Every      time       I tried to talk to her,

little birds would fly
out of my mouth. 
Her fingers fluttered 
the air above her    
& she sighed.
I was trying to speak,
but those birds,

      flew        out          
                            &            away—

from Rattle #80, Summer 2023


Mary Ellen Redmond: “I write to stay sane, to understand and be understood. These poems are about my students. After 27 years of teaching, they populate my psyche. They ride with me on the way home from school, sometimes appear in my dreams, and are there in the morning when I wake.”

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