Salamander 2024 Fiction Contest

SUBMIT: May 1 through June 2, 2024 | READING FEE: $15


when as a grown up, instead of

Sarah Hulyk Maxwell
| poetry


let’s go to my house
you say, let’s go to Mom’s house,
the floorboards will creak in places you don’t
And you will smell fruit
where there was absence,
see couples in photographs instead of baby
pictures. You will gradually lose
the feeling you are coming home.
You will realize your mother has moved
into your old bedroom because it is smaller,
because it seems to be hugging you,
which you needed as a child.
This room digests her as mother
not as wife
which is why it has become somehow your grandmother’s
—down to the ticking of the alarm clock
and the Tums on the dresser
and a lost nursery rhyme, folded in a Bible.
You will realize there is no space for you.
If you want to stay, you share a bed with your mother
and all her loneliness deepening the sheets.
Womanhood seems fragile, then,
familial, autumnal, encompassing, almost
making it impossible to remember a male face
even though you both think vaguely of your husbands.

Sarah Hulyk Maxwell’s most recent work can be found in Small Po[r]tions, and is forthcoming in Bitter Oleander and Up the Staircase Quarterly. She lives in Pittsburgh.

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