i am nothing like my mother

i am nothing like my mother

the first truth i knew well

because her olive black hair was thick and silky

and smelled vanilla sweet

and softly bounced upon her shoulders

in one gentle sweep

and i always recognized it from the back

when searching for her in a crowd

and it was easy

because it was not mine

mine is cherry-tinted, spider-web fine

smells only of today’s shampoo

cuts off right above my ears

weightless and freeing and divine


“i am nothing like my mother”

i said whenever someone told me i looked like her

because it was my father’s smile on my face

and his name i bore with mine

i said i had his sense of humor

his sense of adventure

his anger

his courage

never her dullness

or her smallness

her cowardice

or her ignorance

this was all she was to me

and i was nothing like her


i am nothing like my mother

is what i knew

when she spent hours obsessing over her appearance and her possessions

when she held in any breath that carried passion

when she dreamt eerie dreams that made no sense

when she became not a person but a ghost in the house

when she said she knew me

and i replied

“you don’t know me—

i am nothing like you”


“i am nothing like my mother”

an echo sounding through the generations

as untrue as in the last

she says it, too, my mother

in her mother’s voice

tossing back her mother’s hair

rolling her mother’s eyes

because our mothers were too perfect

too unmaternal

too unknowing

too unreal


yes, i am nothing like my mother

and yet we grew up sharing

music and movies and books and art

because i wanted to love all the things she loved

and her jewelry i scorned

now dons my neck and wrists

and although she always hated my laugh

and i her sense of humor

our jokes come now as a duet


so tell me

how could i be

nothing like my mother

when she raised me with

her hardness and her softness

her earthy strength and her cracks

her dreams and her nightmares

her creation and her destruction

her memories and her fantasies

her unconditional love


no matter how much i tried

to forget the parts of her in me

i couldn’t

and although the both of us have left behind

everything we ever knew

over and over again

we have never left behind

the other

or our foremothers

and now i know


i am everything like my mother


- kyla-yen


Cover Photo Source: Dhaka Tribune