February 4, 2022

Susan L. Lipson


My sudden “Psh!” in the greeting card aisle 
raises the eyebrows of other shoppers 
in search of the perfect Mothers’ Day card,
some of whom flash stiff smiles at me and step away,
others who shake their heads or frown as they
resume reading heart-covered, mushy messages 
like, “Mom, you are my role model in every way,” 
which evoked my sardonic outburst. 

Every May, after the successful shoppers scurry away, 
carrying their fortunately appropriate cards to the cashier,
one shopper always remains to sigh with me in harmony. 
It’s our annual, impromptu meeting of 
Dutiful Daughters Anonymous,
a sober sisterhood of The Dissed— 
disgruntled, disappointed, disrespected, disconnected,
disturbed, disillusioned, distraught, 
I don’t introduce myself at this meeting, 
or publicly declare my identity as a Recovering Masochist, 
only murmur, “Finding an appropriate card shouldn’t be so hard,” 
then watch for the nod, usually followed by a bittersweet smile.
“How ’bout this one?” she asks, handing me another card 
with absurdly inappropriate praise for a mom’s “unconditional love,” 
or “selfless devotion,” or “loving support.”
Shared snickers establish our quirky camaraderie.

“Aw, look, here’s the perfect card: ‘For Mom, my best friend…’”  
“Yeah, right!” The card retreats, unloved, 
behind a solid lavender envelope.
“If your mom has a sense of humor—hah!”
That card drops like the mic of a booed comedian. 
“I got it! ‘To my dear Mom, who brought me into this world…’”
Instantly, we blurt in unison: “And I can take you OUT of it, too!” 
Vibrating with laughter, I replace the card, upside down.
Our guffaws draw the attention of a store employee,
who peers over the card rack from the other side, 
asking if we need help finding something.
We sober up, shake our heads, read, replace, read, replace… 
I spot a simple card, no hearts, no sweet mother-daughter pictures,
only a vase of flowers and the inner message, 
“Happy Mother’s Day.” I grab a duplicate for my stranger-friend.
“You might like this one, too,” I say, before I wave goodbye.

In line for the cash register, we stand silently, 
strangers again, but now less alone—
one behind the other, each of us holding               for the other
obligatory cards meant for anyone’s mother.

from Rattle #74, Winter 2021


Susan L. Lipson: “I write poetry to connect with familiar strangers, even if only for the length of time it took them to absorb my words and feel that I deeply understood them. Sometimes a literal connection with a stranger (say, in a card shop) sparks my poems, often tinged with awe and/or irony, and so I dedicate these verses to the familiar (and quasi-familial) strangers who share my emotional history.” (web)

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