Oddly Enough Why My Mom Is a Lifelong Democrat (Hay Knife, Fear Itself)

Oddly Enough Why My Mom Is a Lifelong Democrat (Hay Knife, Fear Itself)

When my mom was young, she fell,
wearing bunged-up shoes,
upon a hay-knife.

A hay knife
is what it sounds like–triangulated
blade in the bales, blood
gobbed, swept them shocked
to doctor’s, neighbor’s car so fast

she did not see until at last
among the wired instruments
that her own mother, in panting flash,
had pulled a dress inside-
over her work clothes, the seams
dissected veins, the backward buttons clotted
knots in flapped

was horrified.

For she knew that town
was down
on the poor, those (like them)
who lived
in rattled houses with

And what
would the doctor
think, and how–
burning in the full turn of
embarrassment–would her parents even
pay? all cheeks reddened
in the muttering scritch stitch–but prised
from her furied mind an image
of FDR, patrician whose voice made bearable
the endless jags
of static and threat, whose overseeing eye–
bright to her as some great bird’s–would not,
she was somehow certain,
look down heedlessly
on a poor girl
with bleeding

It was not
until the doctor spoke of luck
and the just-missing
of major organs that she noticed, above
the reversed collar twisted
like found
tourniquet, her mother’s
pallor, the seamed
hands running
up and down her layered arms
like creatures newly conscious of
a cage; not till then that she began to realize
how deep
the wound was.


So sorry the above is so long, but hopefully reads fast.  I am posting for MagPie Tales (in response to the picture above from the U.S. dollar posted by Tess Kincaid) and dVerse Poets Open LInk Night.  It is a true story – my mother survived the cut! (On her you know what!)  The Great Depression a terrible time for those like her family whose savings were lost in a foreclosed bank, that somehow still kept all its mortgages operational.   A nod here to Joy Anne Jones, Hedgewitch, who brought up FDR democrats the other day and got my mind running on this piece.  And of course a nod to my amazing mom who, at nearly 90, reads the New York Times every single day.

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44 Comments on “Oddly Enough Why My Mom Is a Lifelong Democrat (Hay Knife, Fear Itself)”

  1. Berowne Says:

    A true story, you say? Well, it’s a powerful one…

  2. wolfsrosebud Says:

    you’ve captured that day… how horrible

  3. Wow, K. This is so strong.

  4. ayala Says:

    Nicely told…glad she made it !

  5. hedgewitch Says:

    No one is so conscious of appearances as the proud poor–I can vouch for that–and can only imagine your mother’s embarrassment, I would say adding *further* insult to an already embarrassing and painful injury.Her mother’s panic, love and concern come through strongly. Your word choice makes this a series of very vivid intakes of breath accompanied by sharp images, much like a difficult memory rising to the top of the mind suddenly. FDR deserves every nod in the book for what he did for struggling Americans during the Depression, not just to provide a material safety net, but to show badly needed strength and compassion in the darkest of times. That really comes through in your portrait. And kudos to your mother for tackling the NYT every day. I usually only read Paul Krugman and Nate Silver. 😉

  6. Living in the UK we forget how lucky we are to have our NHS system. Well told tale and glad everything worked out. Extremely powerful x

  7. kelly Says:

    This is fabulously written… what a story, and I love all the layers, saying so much more than you are saying on the surface. Glad it all worked out in the end, er, no pun intended 🙂 Great poem!

  8. Karin–second wonderful story/poem I’ve read today about a mother/grandmother. Your words paint pictures friend–I’m inspired to think again which stories of my mother’s may be mine to tell, now that she is gone.

  9. very vivid images here…and stories within stories…the maternal bond very convincingly portrayed..great verse.

  10. janehewey Says:

    triangulated/blade in the bales, blood. I nearly choked on the sharpness of this line. The poverty you evoke is intensely personal. I admire your mother’s persistence. And while at it, I admire your daily blogging skills. Does it run in the family…?

  11. That was amazing! Well done!

  12. Tess Kincaid Says:

    Earthy, lovely write, K…rattled houses, chapped barns….this is my favorite of yours to date…marvelous!

  13. brian miller Says:

    nice…i can see why as well…its a hard life…even harder still having to visit the doctor where they look down and having to keep up appearances even when hurt…and i wonder now at those in need, you know…

  14. Wow, great story! I give those who survived The Great Depression, who lived through WWII and all subsequent change so much credit. (my parents and in-laws included). They don’t call them “The Greatest Generation” for nothing!

  15. RD Says:

    the subtle innuendo of judgment…harsh indeed, but the self inflicted coat of steel is equally claustrophobic…the stories of then seem to reveal new light years later… very well told


  16. a multi layered write k. – we still have a good health care system in germany but things are changing…

  17. You claim it long, but this piece so concisely conveys both an individual experience and a societal shift. You cover all facets of humanity, and do so with dignity. So glad you posted.

  18. Steve King Says:

    A fine story and a fine poem. Wonderful eye for the details, both in the material descriptions and the emotional perceptions.

  19. PJF Sayers Says:

    Karin, this is fine poem on how difficult those times must of been for our parents and their parents. I also come from a strong democratic background. How wonderful your mom still reads the paper.


  20. wood Says:

    how deep the wound was… indeed. well i can certainly understand those economic burdens, not even able to cover basic medical needs (kind of wish fdr was around now)

    well, i thought the flow was great, and moved just find. always a pleasure to read your work.

  21. excellent story Karin. Love how connections are made in life and the social conditions of attitude creating a dire reflection at the early stages of this piece really stick with me. Great write.

  22. So much concealed in this poem ~ most powerful

  23. lucychili Says:

    powerful, intense, touching.

  24. David King Says:

    Stunning write. I particularly liked the way the pace increased as the drama built.

  25. Pat Hatt Says:

    Hopefully a day like that will never come again, captured it indeed at your feed.

  26. Archna Says:

    Very smooth and quick read actually. Your mother is an inspiration, glad that she still stays informed. It’s really nice to see bloggers openly and creatively speaking about their concerns on our social structure. Such a strong piece, K.

  27. Sara V Says:

    What a great read! Very fast, the tension taut and images powerful. Really enjoyed this–especially to know that your mom is fine and still reads the NY Times–big smile 🙂

  28. apshilling Says:

    radically powerful and measured for great affect and impact:
    a peach of a read!

  29. Myrna Says:

    No. This was not too long at all. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. We musn’t forget what poverty is, and you captured its debilitating aspects. You made me think a lot.

    Your Mom is a strong, intelligent woman – so rich.

  30. This was definitely not too long and I am glad to see a true story about how it once was to remind people of what we could become again if we aren’t careful. Great poem.

  31. This narrative poem captivated because of so many threats, blood loss, wounds of body and poverty as a wounding humiliation. I do not find the poem long because all words seem essential and there are some amazing phrases – ‘swept them shocked to doctor’s’. What a poem. Thank-you.

  32. Interesting as both a particular moment in history – public and private and tapping into universal feelings when you have aspirations and pride beyond those who want to judge you.

  33. ladynyo Says:

    This is so heartwretching, layered in a good way….a tremendous poem that pulls at all the senses at the same time.

    And what Hedge said: The tragedy is doubled with the class outlook, the injury upon physical injury.

    A very, very powerful poem, K.

    Lady Nyo

  34. farrrrout! it reads very quickly and veryyy strong and horribly painful and extraordinarily emotive …excellent

  35. beckykilsby Says:

    Wonderfully told narrative – just the right mix of fast pace and time to consider. You capture those tensions so clearly and the embarrasmment – that detail of her mother’s dress, inside out is so telling in freezng the moment. I’m going to remember this one – great poetry, K.

  36. This is beautifully told and hit me close to home as there were times when I was a child that we lived without running water or electricity. At four I lost one of my shoes in the river (I only had one pair) which took months to replace. I distinctly remember the moment that I realized that our poverty made us ‘less than’ in the eyes of others. Emotionally affecting and a wonderful tribute.

  37. Sue Says:

    A powerful piece, and beautifully written.


  38. kutamun Says:

    From such a deep layer , Manic , proud to have read it !

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