SWWIM publishes, celebrates, & promotes women, women-identifying & Femme-presenting writers through a Miami-based reading series & the online poetry journal SWWIM Every Day.

Ghost Mother by Lois Roma-Deeley

          Egyptian Woman Disguised Herself as a Man for 43 years

          —New York Times



If you had asked me, I would have told you

why I dressed in these pants and tunic,


tied a green scarf around my close-cropped hair,

smoked cigarettes, spoke rough and low—


why I harvested crops,

hauled cement, lifted bricks,


cleaned the dust and dirt off a thousand shoes

with nothing more to think about but how the day would end.


My daughter survived and I

was never beaten again.


Now, walking through the maze of back alleys,

I set my back against the wind. I’m a ghost mother—


memories float me through time

to our small house, the one with two good chairs


and an old radio humming on the kitchen shelf,

to my little girl playing on the bare floor. I am


a pearl shadow,

standing at the stove, smiling


at pigeons simmering in the pot who seem to smile back.

I fill their stomachs with rice and herbs,


and now they bob up and down

on a roiling sea of cinnamon and cloves.

Lois Roma-Deeley's full-length poetry collection, The Short List of Certainties, won the Jacopone da Todi Poetry Book Prize, (Franciscan University Press, 2017). Her previous books include: Rules of Hunger, northSight and High Notes, a Paterson Poetry Prize Finalist. Roma-Deeley has published widely in numerous poetry anthologies and literary journals, nationally and internationally. She serves as Associate Editor of the poetry journal, Presence. For more, see www.loisroma-deeley.com.

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