Grendel's Mother

Jameka Williams

is a Black woman
in blue collar
with Newport menthols
for the lungs
she takes for granted.

For the child smothering
her whip with bare hand
squealing, “No more,”
she says, “Not enough.”

Grendel’s mother is a songstress
when she realizes she’s a swan.
Criticizes her naked, drooping
breasts in the bathroom mirror.

Puffs out her trumpeter chest
and says, “Damn, I’d be a bird,
if I weren’t a human.”

Is a good woman
when she’s alone.

Is bad when Saturday night benders
wrap her up like a forgotten gift,
leaves her covered in moth balls.

Her man opens the closet and finds her
eating candy panties she was to wear
last anniversary. The taste: industrial
like lovemaking in a ’91 Ford Taurus.

She looks to her man, then Grendel,
deceitful as a wish, a wish caustic enough
to make a genie sulk back to his bottle.

Dotes on the cigarette in her pinchers
like it’s her bastard, because she’ll consume
Grendel for every wish she screwed for him.

Grendel cries out for her.
Sounds like music.
Blares like a swan’s song.
maa. maa. maa. maa.


Grendel’s mother is a swan.
Not a genie.
She sings herself to sleep
in the closet.