Mother Tongue / Layla Lenhardt


Mother Tongue

poems by

Layla Lenhardt

ISBN: 978-1-59948-949-0, 64 pages, $14 (+ shipping)

Release Date: February 21, 2023

An Advance Sale Discount price for this title has expired. Those who prefer to pay by check, the price is $18/book (which includes shipping) and should be sent to: Main Street Rag, PO BOX 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227-7001. 


Layla Lenhardt is an American poet. She was born in Philadelphia and attended Washington & Jefferson College. She is founder and Editor-in-Chief of the (currently on hiatus) national literary journal 1932 Quarterly. Her essays, poems, short prose, and interviews have been published across various types of media, including a pickle jar, a post card, and a bathroom stall in Dublin. She is a 2021 Best of the Net Nominee and is a judge for the 2022 Poetry Super Highway’s Annual Contest. She lives in Indianapolis with her three cats, Beauregard, Sylvia, and Giovanni.

“The first time I read Mother Tongue front-to-back in full, was in a single sitting. The second time through, I paused purposefully after each poem, in an attempt to try and understand why each line, beautifully structured one-after-another, continuously struck me so deeply or, more importantly, left me feeling nostalgic for a life I’d yet to live, or a love I’d yet to feel. Like sunburn on the inside of the throat. You see, to read Layla Lenhardt, truly, is to ask one of life’s great questions; is accepting the constant work of loving another person worth the always present and possible pain of losing them? I thought no the first time I read this collection through. I’m leaning heavily in the opposite direction reading through again. I suspect Lenhardt has known for a fact the answer was yes all along. Mother Tongue is a colossal testament to an artist stepping into their own power, and a must-read in 2022. Particularly those of us in search of constant reassurance that the love we seek can be found around every corner, and in this instance, in every single word. And, y’know; knocked-down–isn’t that all of us?” ~Caleb Robertson

Timid Shame


That winter split me
like firewood. I was smaller,
splintered, Elliot Smith would play
on cassette in my blue Volkswagen
while our breath coursed
through flared nostrils and damaged lungs.
I hid my pain like a sick dog. I slinked
out, under the back deck,
I swallowed some pills.
In those hideous places
I can still smell the acrid, peaty heat
of your breath, reeking like remorse.
But even though you swore that you left
I still caught you shoplifting.
Greedily, you shoved
every broken piece of me
into your pockets.
The more you took, the more
I couldn’t help but remember you
feeding our cats, their tails licking
around your ankles like muted flames.
And now I’m jealous of people
I don’t know. I want to be that stranger
sitting across from you on the subway.
I want to claim the dust you leave behind.



Suburban Grief


Sara saunters over.
The asphalt roof, the slope
of the shingles scratches our feet.
Guitar trills twists perfectly
with her lips, curved into an inner tube
exhaling the suburban grief.
The pink of her nipples, communion wafers,
and I was begging for God.

We shimmied through splintered panes,
the night was our rectory.
She sang in falsetto and my goosebumps
prickled triumphant
while the stars met their death above us,
like marshmallows in hot chocolate.
Fizzing sadly to a quiet end.

Someone asked me once,
about the best cigarette I’ve ever had.
It was on the tongue of a girl
too old for her age, too busy for her body.
Her thighs, her legs,
not quite long enough
to patch the distance.


Remember Me, Cowboy


We were skinny dipping in my neighbor’s pool,
your silver skin was pocked with goosebumps
and summer was closing in around us, suffocating us
slowly, a tightening noose.
I don’t remember if I kissed
your lips or Jim Beam’s more,
but death was quietly introducing itself as we slept
curled against each other in my childhood bedroom.
I knew you wouldn’t come back
but somewhere, deep in my stomach, there was speck of hope alive-
an orchid seed in the earthy darkness- and I thought maybe,
if I held your heart the right way,
you’d make a home out of me.
But we were just
a steely blue night,
a dead bird,
a shockwave, curling my fingers, rattling my skull.



saturn return


it was all a dream. the tumbled waves,
the road rash. your mattress in a firefly

spangled field. all the airplane seats turned
confessionals. the blunts smoked. the tired

record needle. the hurricane that washed
you away. i wonder who’s fingers are tracing

your tattoos, which mountains you’re climbing.
i feel younger than i am. i’ll never be the same.

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