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Tug of War by Molly Seale

Updated: Feb 9

A photograph.

Mother and I stand on shore, a short pier propels

into the water. Mother is tall, willowy, her skirt billows in a breeze,

her hair is subtly curled, blown back from her scowling face.

She clasps my hand, peers down at me.

I am five years old, heels dug into the sand,

my face turned, tugging away, arm taut.

I don’t want my hand in hers.

She will pull me to the edge. I don’t want

to go there. I want to run away from the water.

It will swallow me. Gulp me whole. Make me disappear.

She doesn’t understand.

She forces me to go where I don’t want to go.

My mother.

I feel resistance in my little body.

I suffer my fear. Did I fear the water?

Or did I fear my mother?

She did not know. She did not understand.

She forced me to experience what she enjoyed,

withered my hope, fueled my fear.

She never understood.

I never stopped resisting.

Even at her end, I drew back.


Only now, decades after her death,

do I at last grasp—not what she took—

but what she gave.

Only now can I reconcile

her pulling, my tugging, her demanding

to guide me boldly into the deep.


Molly Seale has published poems, memoir, essays, and short stories in a variety of publications—most recently in Humans of the World, Months to Years, Cathexis Northwest Press, The Write Launch, and forthcoming, Fatal Flaw Literary Magazine. She is an erstwhile theatre artist, now enjoying a life of writing accompanied by her husband and two gray cats. She holds an MFA in Theatre from The University of Texas and lives in Makanda, Illinois.



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