Searching for words to celebrate Mothers’ Day this year, my thoughts and feelings were drawn to the mothers who have lost their homes and are seeking refuge in new lands. Such dispossession seems unimaginable.
Each of the poems selected reflects the depth and indomitable strength of maternal love.
“You loved me before seeing me;
You love me in all my mistakes;
You will love me for what I am.”
― Luffina Lourduraj
MOTHER TO SON-Langston Hughes
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So, boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps.
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
“A mother’s body remembers her babies-the folds of soft flesh, the softly furred scalp against her nose.
Each child has it’s own entreaties to body and soul.”
― Barbara Kingsolver
Mother – Poem by Lola Ridge
Your love was like moonlight
turning harsh things to beauty,
so that little wry souls
reflecting each other obliquely
as in cracked mirrors . . .
beheld in your luminous spirit
their own reflection,
transfigured as in a shining stream,
and loved you for what they are not.
You are less an image in my mind
than a luster
I see you in gleams
pale as star-light on a gray wall . . .
evanescent as the reflection of a white swan
shimmering in broken water.
The Mother – Poem by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Here I lean over you, small son, sleeping
Warm in my arms,
And I con to my heart all your dew-fresh charms,
As you lie close, close in my hungry hold…
Your hair like a miser’s dream of gold,
And the white rose of your face far fairer,
Finer, and rarer
Than all the flowers in the young year’s keeping;
Over lips half parted your low breath creeping
Is sweeter than violets in April grasses;
Though your eyes are fast shut I can see their blue,
Splendid and soft as starshine in heaven,
With all the joyance and wisdom given
From the many souls who have stanchly striven
Through the dead years to be strong and true.
Those fine little feet in my worn hands holden…
Where will they tread?
Valleys of shadow or heights dawn-red?
And those silken fingers, O, wee, white son,
What valorous deeds shall by them be done
In the future that yet so distant is seeming
To my fond dreaming?
What words all so musical and golden
With starry truth and poesy olden
Shall those lips speak in the years on-coming?
O, child of mine, with waxen brow,
Surely your words of that dim to-morrow
Rapture and power and grace must borrow
From the poignant love and holy sorrow
Of the heart that shrines and cradles you now!
Some bitter day you will love another,
To her will bear
Love-gifts and woo her… then must I share
You and your tenderness! Now you are mine
From your feet to your hair so golden and fine,
And your crumpled finger-tips… mine completely,
Wholly and sweetly;
Mine with kisses deep to smother,
No one so near to you now as your mother!
Others may hear your words of beauty,
But your precious silence is mine alone;
Here in my arms I have enrolled you,
Away from the grasping world I fold you,
Flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone!
A lesson in abundance – Michelle Payette-Daoust, October 1998
(written while participating in the Creative Writing Workshop with Tim Fain)
In x-ray light a
mother suckles her child
the television is her
late night companion
motions they are simply going through
baby’s eyes scanning the dark
Where are yours mama ?
This scene has been oft replayed
wrung-out mother longing
for sleep’s black hole
frozen eyes fixed on a world beyond
Jolting images on the screen
draw her to a place
of embargoes and despair
rag doll babies clutched in
dead-eyed mothers’ arms
Ghost hospitals with
a shell-shocked surgeon’s
A searing pain
a rush of emotion blood
the mother looks down
at the life in her arms
I can feed you till you burst
I can tend your wounds
I can warm you with my love’s fire
You will never want
She gasps from this stomach blow
tidal wave flooding her lungs
burning her throat
spilling from her eyes
They are tears of shame and abundance.
“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”
― Mitch Albom, For One More Day
For my Mother – May Sarton
I summon you
Out of the past
With poignant love,
You who nourished the poet
And the lover.
I see your gray eyes
Looking out to sea
In those Rockport summers,
Keeping a distance
Within the closeness
Which was never intrusive
Into the world.
And what I remember
Is how we laughed
Till we cried
Swept into merriment
Especially when times were hard.
And what I remember
Is how you never stopped creating
And how people sent me
Dresses you had designed
With rich embroidery
In brilliant colors
Because they could not bear
To give them away
Or cast them aside.
I summon you now
Not to think of
The ceaseless battle
With pain and ill-health,
The frailty and the anguish.
No, today I remember
Here is a list of books that explore the mother-child relationship:
- Emma Donoghue, Room
- Anne Enright, Making Babies: stumbling into motherhood
- Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
- L M Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables (because Marilla’s love is as ferociously maternal as it gets)
- Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
- Maggie O’Farrell, The Hand that First Held Mine
- Ayana Mathis, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
- Colm Toibin, Mothers and Sons
HAPPY MOTHERS’ DAY !!