When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother

  • Review
By – August 26, 2011
Melis­sa Broder’s When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Moth­er is a series of up-close and per­son­al poems that all togeth­er offer a vision of grow­ing into wom­an­hood.
 These poems are about mak­ing mis­takes, expe­ri­enc­ing firsts,” and learn­ing lessons and are enveloped in humor and — for many read­ers, includ­ing myself — famil­iar­i­ty. In fact, some of them are the exact poems I attempt­ed to write after sig­nif­i­cant moments and rev­e­la­tions in my own life. Alas, Broder has done a bet­ter job.
 In At his Aunt Sheila’s house in Taos,” the nar­ra­tor recalls a first uri­nary tract infec­tion: I was in pain the place I peed, but scared to say/​… the truth was, if some­one had told me: Urinate/​after you have sex with him, hip­pie-rab­bit, I wouldn’t have/​lain there on the clay floor.” 
Sim­i­lar­ly, poems about anorex­ia (“Prayer of the Teenage waif”), deal­ing with a boyfriend’s porn habit (“Why she lets him go to Reno and Sleep with whores”), and abor­tions (“Mar­garet Sanger Nev­er Said”) all bear wit­ness to a mod­ern female expe­ri­ence in the US
For some, Broder’s Jew­ish poems res­onate on an even deep­er iden­ti­ty wave­length. In We will find our­selves hat­ing a blonde stranger,” she writes, when the tow-head­ed strangers attended/​our bat mitz­vahs in schlep­py pais­ley sundresses/​we trem­bled big in black, with some appetite./What was expect­ed of us but to stay sane?/Plenty of things. Abstain from hon­ey-baked hams/​Nantucket, seer­suck­er, Volk­swa­gen”
All togeth­er, the col­lec­tion is a bunch of Ah-ha moments in poet­ry form. Melis­sa Broder has lived out what we all have, but she has found a way to suc­cess­ful­ly com­mu­ni­cate the mes­sage in verse.

Read Melis­sa Broder’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

Jew­ish vs. Goy­ish: The Year in Review

B‑Sides with Melis­sa Broder

Famous Jews You Went to Hebrew School With

Melis­sa Broder’s Pen Pal # 1

Melis­sa Broder’s Pen Pal #2

Mar­garet Teich is a free­lance envi­ron­men­tal writer and eco-con­sul­tant liv­ing in New York City. Check out her blog, Gspot​ting​.net.

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