i tell all the men that lace their boots
and hold their pens correctly
that i would be a bad mother.
i am selfish
when i am tired, when i am happy,
when i am orgasming,
when i am baking and heat seizes
from cracks in sourdough,
when like god, it is time for me to eat
mothers can’t be selfish.
they can be women of the church
they can wear flowers in their hair
they can mother their mothers
they can become their child’s child
they can let pork steak go green in sink
they can lie
they can hold close
they can empty savings accounts
they can speak in tongues
they can hold child belly first to slash
say here, here, so i can rest.
what i tell men, when they look
to share life and trace
every cotton sealed
birthmark and gash, is that
i prioritize my rest.
my body cannot accommodate.
these arms were meant for kneading,
for bringing hard bread to streetside creek
so that the mallards can swim, be sanctified, and eat.
Sydney Mayes is a poet from Denver, Colorado. Winner of the 2021 Iowa Chapbook Prize, her poems have been published and are forthcoming in The Iowa Review Blog, Denver Quarterly and Prairie Schooner. They are an MFA candidate in poetry at Vanderbilt University.