By Brenda Shaughnessy b. 1970 Brenda Shaughnessy
If only you’d been a better mother.
How could I have been a better mother?
I would have needed a better self,
and that is a gift I never received.
So you’re saying it’s someone else’s fault?
The gift of having had a better mother myself,
my own mother having had a better mother herself.
The gift that keeps on not being given.
Who was supposed to give it?
How am I supposed to know?
Well, how am I supposed to live?
I suppose you must live as if you had been
given better to live with. Comb your hair, for instance.
I cut off my hair, to sell for the money
to buy you what you wanted.
I wanted nothing but your happiness.
I can’t give you that!
What would Jesus do?
He had a weird mother too . . .
Use the myrrh, the frankincense, as if
it were given unconditionally, your birthright.
It’s a riddle.
All gifts are a riddle, all lives are
in the middle of mother-lives.
But it’s always winter in this world.
There is no end to ending.
The season of giving, the season
when the bears are never cold,
because they are sleeping.
The bears are never cold, Mama,
but I am one cold, cold bear.

Brenda Shaughnessy, “Magi” from Our Andromeda. Copyright © 2012 by Brenda Shaughnessy. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Source: Our Andromeda (Copper Canyon Press, 2012)

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Poet Brenda Shaughnessy b. 1970

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, Parenthood, Relationships, Family & Ancestors

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Brenda  Shaughnessy


Brenda Shaughnessy earned a BA from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an MFA from Columbia University. She is the author of Interior with Sudden Joy (1999), Human Dark with Sugar (2008), winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, Our Andromeda (2012), and So Much Synth (2016). Her work has appeared in the Yale Review, the Boston Review, McSweeney’s, and Best American Poetry, among other . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Parenthood, Relationships, Family & Ancestors

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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