IN ASSISTED LIVING, MY MOTHER BECAME HOLY
It was a kind of stripped-down-holy,
memory reversed, and her vision, a cloudiness
that couldn’t be corrected. She stopped
weeping, came to live where lost was charming
with her luminous waves of hair,
five blouses, layered, five necklaces,
five bracelets, five rings. One was beautiful,
five, even more. The gardener gave her
a Calla lily, the manicurist ordered Timeless Pink,
and the night nurse walked her outside
in her nightgown to see the moon. New friends,
elders with their wits about them, talked to her
though she couldn’t hear, left offerings:
sacramental cards and votive candles.
They came as pilgrims, Peggy pushing
a walker, Mary and her oxygen tank,
Margy of the constant tremors, who touched
my mother’s face with dancing hands.
--by Margot Wizansky
Portrait of My Mother in Purses
Because she has no safe for hiding,
she has sewn a diamond ring
into the lining of an old Chanel,
too party pink to be used.
An assembly of browns and blacks
lies empty, stacked like spoons,
and the Gucci cocktail bag trimmed
with turquoise stones my father
brought back from Paris, when all
she wanted was to dance with him.
A red-leather change purse shelters
what she must resettle from one bag
to another: one folded white paper
on which she has written four names
and numbers of her three daughters
and husband, one hundred dollars cash,
an American Express card, two blue pills
for nerves, one tiny scissor to free herself
from a seatbelt, should this be necessary.
--by Rachel Goldstein
When I was a girl I knew
leaving me was in her.
I dressed up the stage of my mother’s story.
I could have charged quarters for that
privilege. I am telling
the truth. She was such composition.
Sunday, hat and gloves, my brother’s baby curl tucked
into her bible, Leviticus, a photo of gladiolas; Monday,
a line of laundry hung in perfect graduation, and so on.
Every supper preordained: chicken soup on Wednesdays,
Fridays, salt fish in drawn butter.
A child wants to believe what she’s told,
not what she glimpses in the two step swing of days –
every well-thumbed letter from my aunt,
postmarks Germany, Cyprus, Ontario, saved
in a blue flowered suitcase. She’d slip
sometimes, let supper burn
while she read novels. And sometimes
she’d let me dig to the bottom of her
drawstring handbag for spearmint gum and I’d take
my time, pull out her tortoiseshell comb, a gift
from a boy on a black Schwinn bike, long before
any of this. She wanted to have
what she wanted – a map with an evacuation route,
new vistas, books, what she didn’t already know.
---by Carol Hobbs
My Mother, Speaking of Life,
chastises me for my soup spoons
crusted on the backbone of my stove.
They rest on the porcelain trivet
like wolves in a snow lit forest.
She comes to visit
brings her Playtex gloves,
she is in that fuzzy robe
she always ties cockeyed.
She talks with her hands,
a metronome between us.
She has washed my hot pink socks.
they are too loud, she thought.
I was her pup, her muzzle on my neck.
She carried me until her hair went white.
--by Pamela Gemme
Walking to the 58th Street Library
The first block stretched on with big doors
and sometimes a doorman standing in front
who smiled or touched his hand to his hat
and I hurried past to get to the next block
where the houses were smaller and pressed
close together and each one had its own set of steps
leading to a front door. And I wanted to run up
and down those steps. All of them. And my mother
waited while I ran up, she waited while I ran down.
She wasn't in a hurry. And when I flew into her,
pleased with myself and a little out of breath,
she took my hand in her cool fingers
and we started walking again, as if she were rich
in time, and I was what she wanted to spend it on.
--by Wendy Mnookin
There is a kind of pressure in humans to take what is most beloved to them and smash it. – Anne Carson
If my despair shatters
could I hurt you: Wobble neck
snapped. In my hands. I break you
into scream… ease does not wash me,
rock water begins its pound:
Swim, I tell myself, Swim—
but deep currents switch,
drag me beyond
the glassy waves—
Come back—come, back…
Touch: freckle beneath left eye.
Smell: milk across your breath.
--by Lani Scozzari
POETRY IN PLACE
Washing my Mother’s Feet
Next, rub with fine pumice I tell her after
buying the stone for her hardened
and fissured feet, peasant feet she called
those size elevens she wore without
thought, on which she ambled the souqs
of Baghdad, Venetian calles, Manhattan’s
grid, brick sidewalks of Harvard Square.
In a basin of hot water she soaks them,
then I scrape, dry, and with lotioned
hands, massage till they’re almost soft.
She’d never dressed those forgotten feet
in fine shoes – too old now to care
for such distant things. I clean them,
heal their wounds, I offer her this care.
--by Connemara Wadsworth
Other Children’s Mothers
Once in a while
other children’s mothers
lent me bits of their
A smile that spread
in my direction
as I sang
in the school concert
pat on the arm
if I was frightened by the sound
of a distant tornado siren
A ‘good job, Lori!'
when I helped her daughter
mix the cookie batter
I’d jump in surprise
at these signs
I wish I could have shoved them
in my pockets, saved them for
later, rationed them
like Halloween candy --
pulling a bit out
every time my mother
told me I was stupid
or gave me her
My mother wasn't
the mothering kind
--by Lori Kagan
Mother's Day 2016 at Newton City Hall
1000 Commonwealth Avenue, Newton Centre, MA
In Re: The Stars
My mother texts me that the stars are finally out.
I’m standing in a parking lot and the stars are mindboggling.
If you’re looking for the center
of the galaxy, it’s right over there.
Lately, I’ve been disparaging the stars.
Sing me a nighttime bright,
untroubled by sleep or stars.
That was me last week in Allston,
caught off guard at 2am
in the hot glow of the
Blanchard’s Liquor sign—
Blue, red and pink,
and the sky wild with airplanes and satellites
and a total absence of a moon—
Next to my bed, a tin milagro my mother bought
at the holy shrine at Chimayó. To heal my mind.
Stars that burn darkness into soft compliance.
Stars crossing a point in space.
Stars come to their cosmic point.
--by Eric E. Hyett
Some of the experience we have with our mothers are etched forever in our memory, some are ephemeral as chalk. Poet Grey Held designed the project to allow viewers to experience poetry in a visual and kinesthetic way. “The Mother’s Day Poetry Project brings poetry out into the community, honors motherhood, helps facilitate discussions of motherhood in all its richness and diversity,” says Held, “and allows people to experience poetry outside of the usual framework of books.” The ten poems being featured were selected as part of a contest that attracted 100 submissions. The emotions evoked by these poems are as quixotic and varied as our mothers themselves. Some will make you laugh, nod in understanding, or wince at the pain a mother or her child experienced. All of them are memories that you can relate to if you have a mother.
I want her
as flicking silver
from the golden
rump of apricots
in sweetened space
as rising bread
as the purple clematis
may her heart
let her awaken
to the swiftness
and the slowing
----by Lee Firestone Dunne
Mother's Day Poetry at City Hall