Structure and the Prose Poem
Kincaid’s use of semicolons to separate the mother’s advice and commands creates a prose poem that vividly captures the daughter’s conflicting feelings for her mother. A prose poem is one that lacks rhyme, lines, and the traditional form of poetry as well as the narrative structure of conventional fiction. The layers of advice and commands spoken in one long, unending breath create a smothering sense of duty and even oppression that stifles real, two-way communication. The daughter uses the few opportunities she has to speak to protest her mother’s belief that she’ll grow older to become a “slut,” suggesting that the daughter has already begun to resent her mother. At the same time, however, Kincaid uses the run-on sentence structure almost as a list to display the mother’s domestic accomplishments to highlight her wisdom and power.