Lies Our Mother Told Us

by Abriana Jetté

I do not believe in the story of the virgin
but in the value of the human: the body —

because no matter what you were told
that soul is not yours. But the body,

the body is yours. The slight round
of the breast like the sun or the depth of your

toes to your crown: these are the ways
we measure ourselves. I do not want to

believe she was a vehicle. Tell me
there was pleasure; there were moans.

Tell me when she was fully grown
she remembered a wave a release an ecstasy

that entered her, that she could feel it in her
teeth. Motherhood means you are no longer

maiden but Queen. Tell me the story of the one
who smiled at the rustling of her sheets.

Abriana Jetté is the editor of the #1 best selling anthology in Women’s Poetry, 50 Whispers: Poems by Extraordinary Women. Her poetry and nonfiction have been published or are forthcoming in Plume, River Teeth, The Moth, and many other places. She lives in Brooklyn, where she teaches for St. John’s University and for the City University of New York. For more, please visit

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Lies Our Mothers Told Us”?

    What you might find intriguing about the poem is that I was completely immersed in Chaucer’s “Legends of Good Women” when I wrote it, thinking a lot about representations of the virgin martyr in medieval literature. The poem, which I wrote as part of my annual Poetry Month challenge (30/30), feels like my call to those women who came before me and looked upon their bodies as weapons not blessings.
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