An Undergraduate Literary Journal from UW-Milwaukee

To My Mother

by Katarina Merlini

If our selves can indeed be contained,
     as my borders were once within you,
is your sadness the same color as mine—
     your crying kept me up all those nights

as the sadness pushed against the walls of your body.
     Is this my inheritance—the color of your weeping
(lavender, mixed with honey)
     and the knowledge that, if I take one now

and one on the plane, I won’t be so afraid of flying?
     That and an affinity for beige, the color
of your camel coat and the walls
     of your rose scented shoe closet. When I was younger

I stole a bottle of rosewater from the spice cabinet
     so that I could smell as pretty as you.
I am not a pretty girl. But there you were:
     “Model of the Year” lining the hallway walls

and that’s what I had to compare myself to
     all those years. When I was eight I stole
a box of soaps from the store and hid them in my sweatshirt.
     You hauled me into the police station, crying.

I have an affinity for taking things that do not belong to me
     (like your grief, chartreuse and red-violet)
and pressing them inward to pack the walls of my body—
     bigger than yours, darker, and twice as strong.


Katarina Merlini is a poet, writer, and alleged human being who studies English and Psychology at the University of Michigan. When she’s not dressing her dog up in thrifted sweaters or tending to her windowsill cactus collection, she enjoys working as a mentor for local LGBTQ+ and at-risk youth.