Mama’s Boy

By on Mar 31, 2019 in Poetry

Mama's boy tattoo with superimposed flowers

The day I found out my mother had cancer
I knew it before they even spoke. There  was something —
I still can’t name it — something to the silence
after the ringing stopped. My father’s “Hey Bud”
lacked the usual enthusiasm. For twenty minutes
there was only medical jargon, recitation of statistics.
And in the pauses in between I could feel her,
as only a mother could, worrying only how I’d take the news.
When we were done, she told me she loved me,
I replied in kind, and that I knew it would be okay.

It’s always been like that — she, concerned about me,
and me, worried most about what she’d think.
I caught some shit for it growing up — because I knew
she wanted me to do the right thing, when the 3rd grade
bullies shoved Sherman Willis’ head in the toilet,
I told the teacher, and was exiled for a week —
“Mama’s Boy” they snarled, and pointed.
I never skipped class as a freshman to smoke cigarettes
behind the high school gymnasium, even though
Molly McGuinty asked me to, and she was a junior,
and every pore of my body was lit like a Bunsen burner,
but upperclassmen didn’t sleep with Mama’s Boys.

And even now, I sit at this red light at two in the morning,
with no one around — not even the faintest glow
of headlights beyond the crest of the road ahead.
She’s always with me. I wait for it to turn green,
and only then pull my foot slowly off the break.
Mama’s Boy, I laugh to myself and smirk —
I’ll wear that name like a tattoo on my heart.


Robert Pfeiffer received his MFA and PhD in Creative Writing from Georgia State University. His first collection of poems, Bend, Break, was published in 2011 by Plain View Press. Individual poems have appeared in journals internationally, such as Mudfish, The Connecticut River Review, Indefinite Space, Iodine Poetry Journal, The Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, The Flint Hills Review, Freefall Magazine, The Concho River Review and The Fourth River. He is an associate professor of English at Clayton State University and lives in Decatur with his wife, daughter and two dogs.