Got up this morning, and a poem came. Whenever this happens, I am amazed and grateful, for as W.S. Merwin once said at a poetry workshop, (and I am paraphrasing, from memory), “After writing a poem we often feel that it’s our last. Another will never come.” But somehow, they do.
And I don’t believe in “writer’s block” anymore. I just wait. Sometimes for weeks, even months, and then one arrives.
So here is this morning’s poem, triggered by a memory of my Mother, who having lost her own Mother at the age of 10, always feared she’d not know how to “mother” when her 4 children arrived at that memorable age. But she overcame all such doubts, at least in the minds of her children. I’m sure my recent departure from a local Head Start program also led to many of the feelings that arise in this poem.
My Mother taught me to like
She’d be in the kitchen,
Wedged between the ironing board & countertop,
Where Arthur Godfrey would croon and drone on
From our Philips radio,
Through our hour together.
She’d be pressing the hot silver iron over and over
Into my Father’s handkerchiefs,
While I cut out clothes for my paper dolls
From page after page of imagined fabric.
And best of all, we drank coffee–
Mother, from her everyday Melmac mug,
And I, from one of her Royal Copenhagen demitasse cups,
Half full of milk and sugar,
So as not to keep me awake
From the nap that always followed,
Where she stopped everything to read to me,
Sing her childhood songs:
“Oh, Do you Know the Muffin Man,” and
“My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean,”
Teased me to sleep with a back rub,
And always, one more story.
She’s been gone now for sixteen years,
But when my little pre-school students ask,
“Where is your Mother?”
I look around the room, at their make-believe
Kitchen, the toy ironing board and little wooden iron,
The plastic tea set, the nap time cots, and answer:
“In Heaven,” which means, “here, in my heart”.