Circe | Literary Arts | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


My mother in the steaming kitchen. My beautiful mother, tan and petite. Botox, lipo, prick and prong. My mother at the sink, the stove. My mother at the mirror. My mother and her lovers. Each man grows plump. See their greasy chins and unbuttoned jeans? Hear how their snouts grunt, how their yellow tongues drip? Each one looks up and says: “Your mother’s cooking.”

My mother’s magic is her cauldron and her pretty face. Hovering over a boiling pot, a glistening ham, a golden-brown crab cake her brown skin is goose-fleshed. My mother pushes, food, hands, and lips. The men sniff, hooves rake against the wooden table.  Each belly grows fat with her love. 

I cook alone in a dark galley kitchen. It is winter and my stockings are ripped at the knees. I see my mother’s reflection in the silver pots. Her eyes blip in the reddening soup. When I stir, her lashes sprout from my fork and my fingers are her fingers and her teeth are grinding in the salt and when the garlic simmers, it is her I hear hissing. 

I try to save the weakened broth over a blue flame.
I turn on the stove for ghosts, for the heat of it.

— Brittany Hailer

Brittany Hailer is a creative writing teacher in a women’s rehabilitation center. She has taught creative writing workshops at the Allegheny County Jail. She is the managing editor for IDK Magazine. Her work has appeared in In the Doorframe Waiting, Atlantis Magazine, The Fairy Tale Review and HEArt Online. She earned her master’s of fine arts from Chatham University. She lives in East Liberty. Many writers featured in Chapter & Verse are guests of Prosody, produced by Jan Beatty and Ellen Wadey. Prosody airs every Saturday morning on WESA 90.5 FM.


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