Ammu loved her children (of course), but their wide-eyed vulnerability and their willingness to love people who didn’t really love them exasperated her and sometimes made her want to hurt them—just as an education, a precaution.
—Arundhati Roy, from The God of Small Things
Poets think in lines, prose writers in sentences; the best of both work from sound to sense, with an ear for the music in their compositions. S for Sentence celebrates lyricism in prose, the play and craft at work in the artful sentence. We post a sentence a month along with comments by a guest writer on the craft that shapes it, on what makes it great. In one or two sentences.
—Pearl Abraham, Editor
The parenthetic aside alerts the reader to the disruption that follows, when the tone and tenor of idyllic maternal love suddenly shifts. The pause of the comma followed by the conjunction `but’ sets us up for the merciless criticism of the children’s `wide-eyed vulnerability.’ A heavy languor of l’s— vulnerability, willingness, love, really love— lulls us into a momentary empathy with Ammu, then our continued acquiescence hinges on the attenuation of ‘sometimes.’ With `made her want to hurt them,’ we are brought up short, we no longer want to go along with this mean mother. The em-dashes suggest something left unsaid, a missing emotion, perhaps the forbidden rage that every mother secretly feels from time to time. The final clause, which explains Ammu’s desire to hurt as well-meant, brings us back to a measure of agreement. We have been on a seesaw, but her reasons, `education and precaution,’ clinch it for now: We believe again in this mother’s love.
—Dana Krugle is a candidate for the MFA in Poetry and the new guest editor of S