2018 Fall Contest: Poet’s Choice, 2nd Place Winner

Colors of My Mother
by Janice Hoffman

My mother was born orange
and grew in the 1930s to bright
greens, the ones like the optimistic
and piercing wings of parrots.
Her teens were her ragtime of red,
flaming reds like the color
of her lips in that picture
where she’s in a taffeta gown
in downtown Louisville,
at the Brown, I think, smiling
broadly, proudly, confidently.
After my birth and her divorce,
she turned darker, angry
as soot from an old stove,
but with my new dad and
baby brother, a yellow hue
shown from her again,
something akin to tangerine.

Years came and went,
the way years come and go,
and she began to embrace
tans, beiges, olive greens,
settled into the colors
of the mundane, the resigned.
But now, now, she is pastel—
lavender, lilac, pink,
soft greens like fresh
chartreuse buds in early May.
I talked to her on the phone
today, a new lilt in her voice,
newly encouraged,
newly revived as if she’d
received a transfusion of hope,
especially since this lymphoma
is slower than the cancers
that took both her breasts.
She’s softer now, certainly
not ready to fade.

Janice Hoffman holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Indiana University and currently teaches writing and co-hosts a monthly poetry reading at a college in Virginia. Her work appears in Plainsongs, POEM, Snowy Egret, Canadian Writers’ Journal, Women Who Write, and other literary journals, including those for the Poetry Societies of Indiana, Kentucky, and South Dakota. in 2017, she was runner-up for the Poet Laureate of Hampton Roads, Virginia.

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