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Tea Leaves: a memoir of mothers and daughters by Janet Mason (Bella Books April 2012) is now available -- click here for more info

“There is something here for everyone who has ever loved someone else or plans to. I highly recommend “Tea Leaves” just because it is so real and so beautifully written.”–Reviews by Amos Lassen

check out Janet Mason's author blog

read Janet Mason's latest piece in The Huffington Post --Chick-fil-A: What Would Gandhi Do If He Were Gay? ('s) featured writer

Karen Mittelman -- two poems: Leaving & Punishment

Leaving orginally appeared in the August 2001 of the Red River Review
Click here to read other poems by Karen Mittelman

Click here to read a new novel excerpt by Karen Mittelman
Click here to read Karen's words on Tea Leaves: a memoir of mothers and daughters by Janet Mason


the mother's poem

Whose story is she living inside now,
walking down furrowed black asphalt
to her car,
petting the cat
who will not wake her for milk
in the morning,
turning one last time to see
the faces of her daughters,
startled birds
in the window?

She holds the weight of
their sorrow in the cupped palms
of her hands

Her palms will twitch
naked and feverish
in her sleep
the fever will tell her
she is still alive
What song will she sing
when she rises tomorrow,
cold and solitary?

She knows only
it will not be this one.

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Her mother's face is enormous
with rage it makes
the little girl's breath stop

She is afraid to breathe
and she is afraid she will
not be able to breathe, ever again

For the rest of her days
her lungs will fill half full,
drawing only shallow pulls of air
ribs held shut
against the ripe full swell
of desire, her
mother's face rising in her dreams

Years later when she goes
to the emergency room with chest pain,
she knows she is dying

They tell her to try a different bra,
get plenty of rest,
reduce the stress in her life

The EKG doesn't show
the fine tensed wires pinned tight
against her shoulders
which she will go home and
slowly, methodically tear out that night,
one by one

Like a grandmother
ripping out a seam, stitch by stitch,
to begin again.


Karen Mittelman


Karen Mittelman

Both a mother and a stepmother, Karen Mittelman has been writing poetry, fiction and non-fiction for over twenty years. Her work has appeared in Fireweed, Red River Review, and the Comstock Review, among other journals. Her first novel, Force of Nature, recently won second prize for literary fiction in a nationwide contest sponsored by the Maryland Writers' Association. Karen has a Ph.D. in American History from the University of Pennsylvania, and has taught both history and writing. She lives and works in Owings, Maryland, a small town near the Chesapeake Bay, where she is working to create a charter school focusing on the creative arts and environmental education.