Laura Mahal


Advice for a Mother
You take yourself too seriously,
like the time you kept your baby’s placenta in the freezer
in an ice cream-shaped carton with a skull-and-
crossbones, “Do not consume” sticker,
until spring came and thawed the ground
and you dug a hole, far wider and deeper than
necessary, tilled the clay until the soil was silt,
then you placed the placenta, thawed, gelatinous,
in that hole along with blessings and a young flowering
pear tree . . .
Years later, one of the neighbor’s five cats clawed
its way up and refused to come down, and your
sister-in-law, visiting from overseas, insisted you rescue it,
the cat scratched deeply,
the tree, your forearms,
until the pear tree cried out and you both got infected
You recovered
the tree did not
you mourned the loss as if
it was your daughter who had died
Don’t do that.
A tree will come,
a tree will go,
due to cat claws or fire blight or late spring snows,
too heavy for branches to bear,
but your branches are strong
your children are safe
though they are grown, now,
branching out on their own,
the blessings you placed into the earth remain.


Laura Mahal splits her time between writing and copyediting. Her work appears in various literary magazines and anthologies, including Fish, DoveTales (Empathy in Art: Embracing the Other), Still Coming Home, Sunrise Summits, Veterans Voices, Across the Margin, Flash!, OyeDrum, Charlie Mike, and The Road She’s Traveled. She’s a two-time winner of the Hecla Award for Speculative Fiction and received the Gladys Feld Helzberg Memorial Award in 2019.  A 2020 Lit Fest finalist and an upcoming Lighthouse Book Projecteer, Laura was part of the editing team for Rise, which was recently awarded the 2020 Colorado Book Award in the anthology category.

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