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Photo by Brian McSwain, courtesy of the artist



Two years ago today my mother died,
eighty-nine and brilliant, stubborn, brave.
I broke one of her cardinal rules and cried

aloud in the hospital hall—alive, beside
myself with all she took and all she gave.
Two years ago today my mother died.

Three weeks before, she’d been at work, pride
for a moment stronger than death’s wave.
I broke one of her cardinal rules and cried—

a lost daughter, the child to whom she’d lied
as if that would keep a monster in its cave.
Two years ago today my mother died

and freed us from her rules, where shut inside
we’d buried joy and anguish to behave.
I broke one of her cardinal rules and cried,

made a scene, a spectacle, did not hide 
my grief that it was me now I must save.
Two years ago today my mother died.
I broke the rules, I found love’s voice. I cried.

George Ella Lyon reads “Breaking”

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More of Brian McSwain’s photography can be found in his Eyes on the South feature.

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George Ella Lyon

George Ella Lyon’s recent poetry collections include She Let Herself Go, Many-Storied House, and Voices from the March on Washington, cowritten with J. Patrick Lewis. She is particularly interested in the poetry of witness, and she served as Poet Laureate of Kentucky from 2015 to 2016.