Spring 2008, Volume 4

Poetry by Jennifer Givhan

Breaking Through

A woman in the off-campus bookstore asked me
yesterday how many units was I carrying?
because I was buying so many books.
My heavy baby son propped, awkward against my
fleshy hip—he, grasping at my hair, swiping
the air and my earrings, I, adding up the total
in my head, calculating the cost of
crisp, white pages bearing potent
black marks against the cost of
formula—I am a graduate student,
and I—m taking two classes, I answered.
Oh! She looked surprised, maybe
impressed. Smiling, And with a little one to take care of,
encouragingly, good for you!

Standing beside the woman
her young daughter, fresh out of high school,
eager with her freshman psychology hardbound
textbook in hand, trying on size small
university memorabilia;
And she, with her leather wallet in hand,
eager to pay the price for such a sacred

as a fellow mother-woman, proud of this ambition,
(waiting our turn in line)
breaking through—

as a fellow mother-woman, hoping her daughter
finishes school before she becomes
a mother-woman, too.

BIO:  Jennifer Givhan is a graduate student at Cal State Fullerton, working on my M.A. in English. She has been writing poetry for several years, and lives with her husband and infant son.