What Mothers Withhold by Elizabeth Kropf

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 36 pgs.
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What Mothers Withhold by Elizabeth Kropf is a slim chapbook of the emotions we hold inside as mothers and women from our parents, our children, and even ourselves. She opens the collection with a mother’s caring hands, wishing to scrape away the plaque in the minds of Alzheimer’s patients and the dirt from the feet of children who are walking to the United States from Honduras. Each poem is searing with its heartbreak over things we cannot control and the truths that cannot be hidden for too long.

from "the cost of obedience" (pg. 3)

naked in a paper gown
I am without a voice
I nod and accept. I do not say no.
Nurses stare at monitors, their backs to me.

Miscarriages, infertility, and other heartaches are often internalized by women. Women are expected to hold these heartaches inside, especially the feeling of failure. In “Upon the birth of my daughter,” the narrator of these poems speaks to those early moments of birth. She says, “let me reclaim the first moment I held you,/handing you back so soon, arms too weak/let me reclaim, reclaim this passage/let me reclaim a tender moment/to remember to tell you again and again//”

In the title poem, Kropf speaks to what it means to protect our loved ones. How we sometimes push them away to protect them, but in some cases when we hide the truth, it’s only for a little while. There are moments when the truth has to be revealed. “as mothers have always withheld splinters of pain/unwilling to prick innocent skin/until the moment the child is ready to hold truth tenderly/,” she tells us.

The collection is not just about what we hold from our children, but also from ourselves. We withhold our dreams, put them off, waiting for that moment. But that moment is now. We need to learn to be more open, to break through the norms and anxieties that hold us back. What Mothers Withhold by Elizabeth Kropf is less about what we withhold and more about what we need to break free.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Elizabeth Kropf earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Perelandra College and is widely published in literary publications, including The Texas Poetry Calendar, The Penwood Review, and Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature.  A dream called her from California to Texas where she now lives with her husband and daughters.


  1. I’ve also read and reviewed this collection, and featured this poet on my blog. Her poetry is full of insight and beauty. Lovely review, Serena!