by Paul Fericano 

Mother, may I
sit beside you
on the green mohair couch

late at night
like a wakeful dreamer
and watch old movies

on the black and white
television set
with bent rabbit ears

and rest awhile
near your soft and gentle heart
until I fall asleep?

Yes, you may
Mother, may I
light your menthol cigarettes
with the brushed chrome

cigarette lighter
that father gave you
on your first wedding anniversary

and marvel as the smoke rings
float like halos
just above your head?

Yes, you may
Mother, may I
tell the woeful stories
you tried to tell

of love gone bad
that left you alone
to live this stubborn life?

No, you may not
but you may
take three steps backward
and finish this poem


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul Fericano is a poet, satirist and social activist. In 1980 he co-founded (with Elio Ligi) the first parody news syndicate, Yossarian Universal News Service ( which helped revive Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update.” Since then, his work has never appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Paris Review. He’s the author of several books of poetry including Commercial Break, Cancer Quiz, and Loading the Revolver with Real Bullets, and is the co-author (with Elio Ligi) of the political satire, The One Minute President. In 2009, he created the popular Mission Poetry Series in Santa Barbara, Callifornia, and currently writes a monthly column on clergy abuse and the healing process for the blog A Room With A Pew (

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: There’s never any drought of ideas with me. I usually have a notion of how a poem will end before I even start. Most ideas touch on topical subjects or family memories. I spent years and years reading the morning paper and scanning the news for bits of material to use as fodder for my satiric news service. I’ve learned that if you’re fearless anything can be the subject of a poem. The idea for “Mother May I” came about recently when I introduced the game to my granddaughters.