Mother Medusa

Gregory Luce | Scene4 Magazine

Gregory Luce




Jane Rosenberg LaForge's Medusa's Daughter, in the author's words, "interrogates the relationship I had with my mother." Not a straightforward narrative, the book instead presents, scenes, vignettes. and images from Mother/Medusa's life.


At birth:

"Instead of the luxurious shafts

of screens and radio advertisements,

she is given a wiry batch

stinging at the eyes

as if diamond-backed…

Not exactly snake-like

but conscious patterns

copied from the anonymous,

discovered quickly, repeated…."

("Medusa's Resources")

Near life's end after the birth of a granddaughter:


she'll be an actress

someday, or a writer;

it's in her blood far

below where it might

leave a contemporaneous

…the envy you wish

you could conceal

at your daughter's

more perfect childhood."

("Medusa's Grandbaby")


In between, LaForge relates her mother's story and her own life with her in fragments and observations.

The length and scope of this book and the complex, allusive, and sometimes near-surrealistic language make it impossible for a reviewer to do full justice to the power of the book. So I offer excerpts in the hope of enticing the reader to pick it up and experience it in full.


From a poem entitled "Jungle Red," this glimpse of the poet's early years:

"I could never describe

its 1950s vibe,

old-fashioned and outré,

the color of my mother's lipstick,

loud as if it also carried

a scent, like melted crayons

or a wave of something that left

me nauseated; I got motion

sickness just to look at my mother

in her only make-up."

Further along, "When Medusa Was Beautiful,"

"Before your education and ulcers

set in; before her hair grayed

into snakes, the weight was gained, the lips

thinned into a pursed expression."


"My Father and I Discuss My Mother After Her Death" indicates some of the difficulties Medusa and her family faced throughout her life:

"Well, your mother always had

to have her projects,

he [the poet's father] said, smiling wistfully

as he rarely did in her lifetime.

But it really wasn't like that.

It's just a story we agreed upon,

a mnemonic shorthand

we could easily stash

and retrieve when recollecting

her years of depression and manias."

In "Medusa's Other Daughter," we discover that the poet is less favored of two offspring:

"The favorite, alleged

By the other, because

She knows the favorites

In an official sense:

Flower, Broadway musical,

Movie, book; tastes

And preferences beyond



The title poem relates a not unexpected divergence between the way Medusa sees her daughter and the poet's self-assessment:

"I see myself, I see myself,

and how I wish people would see me:

as if I was Monet's woman with a parasol

turning to glance back at the artist,

my skirt swept up by wind and a veil

from my hat obscuring my face…."

("Medusa's Daughter")

And finally, the poet considers her mother's death:

"Between birth and death,

Three days apart on

The calendar collapsing

Methods and practices

Just as dreams might be

Mistaken for real events

At certain hours, pre-dawn.

I dreamt I owned only

Chairs, no mattresses,

No place for rest

In peace, no graciousness.

Because I'm not ready

To let you go.

Not yet."

("A Year's Time")


These passages only hint at what awaits the reader in this intensely written, complex collection. The language may prove difficult for some and this highly wrought volume is possibly not to everyone's taste, but should prove to be fascinating and rewarding for those who like slow, challenging reading and the exploration of women's experiences from multiple viewpoints.


You can purchase the book here:


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Gregory Luce | Scene4 Magazine

Gregory Luce is a Senior Writer and Columnist for Scene4.
He is the author of four books of poetry, has published widely in print and online and is the 2014 Larry Neal Award winner for adult poetry, given by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Retired from National Geographic, he is a volunteer writing tutor/mentor for 826DC, and lives in Arlington, VA. More at: https://dctexpoet.wordpress.com/
For his other columns and articles in Scene4
check the Archives

©2021 Gregory Luce
©2021 Publication Scene4 Magazine





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