“A Mother’s Loss”


A Mother’s Loss

She was my first friend my own age
to die. Not by accident, not
by her own hand, but with
advance notice, and against
her will.

She tried to block it, to barricade death’s door as if
with couch, desk, table, only she
used organs–

The teen-long legs of her daughters dangled
from the arms of chairs in her last room–while her own
arms–arms that, not long before, would have lifted a car
if it had pinned one of those girls–tendonned the

I tried for poetry–she liked
poetry– but all I had rock-solid
was Yeats, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” and as
uplifting as those words
might be – I will arise
and go now
– they were chunks of pavement
in my mouth, the roadway stuck
below the pinioning car,

her clenched face drawn
to different lines, lines that resisted
far shores, lines that radiated only
towards the two girls lapping the stiff-backed chairs.

Batting away silent
linnets’ wings, her croaked voice stretched across
the tubelit glimmer: have you
finished your homework?
Did you get enough
to eat?

At her memorial some weeks later,
her daughters, poised women,
shook hands with all who came.

Sorry to be so gloomy of late! (I think I need more sun!) The above poem, about which I am still very uncertain, was written for the dVerse Poets poetics prompt hosted by the wonderful Stu McPherson on growing up. I am also linking to Real Toads Open Link Monday.  The photograph was taken by Raquel Martin (with, amazingly, my iPad). All rights, as always, reserved.

Explore posts in the same categories: iPad art, poetry

41 Comments on ““A Mother’s Loss””

  1. brian miller Says:

    dang….you def carried the mood…and dont apologize for the gloom…you make us feel….losing that first friend is where my mind went back to…and its hard in that moment…the i tried for poetry stanza is my fav….

  2. Mary Says:

    Whew, Karin, this is such a hard experience…..to lose a friend one’s own age. I remember when this happened to me for the FIRST time. An old college roommate. A friend I had for years and years — cancer. I think it hits so hard for two reasons: because of our sadness over the loss and also because we realize it could have been us.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Yes, you are very right. The poem went through many iterations, because there are so many feelings that one has about one’s self, but I kept trying to shorten and simplify so the focus changed a lot. k.

  3. zongrik Says:

    sounds like she had a hard life, the part about the clenched face and lines says that the strongest

  4. claudia Says:

    this is so tough… chunks of pavement
    in my mouth… i can imagine, you want to say the right things, want to encourage her but then in the face of death things sound so different.. a powerful write k.

  5. kkkkaty Says:

    those teen-long legs were resilient girls..a true coming of age through illness and death experience….excellent tribute if you will;)

  6. stuartmcphersonpoet Says:

    This is a tough tough insight that you how us Karin. Heartbreaking….the whole picture, and her daughters, well that is that moment, that realisation of ‘growing up’ if you will….life gives you no choice about that sometimes. And I don’t think this is gloomy, its beautifully sad, yes, but not gloomy- this poem is an example of making sense of and understanding the world, after all, this is what it does to us on a daily basis. I thought this was spot on.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks so much, Stu. I struggled so much because at first it was about my growing up – being in that situation–and I think/hope that’s still implied, but then I really didn’t want to make it so much about me. It was a wonderful and very rich prompt.

      On Sun, Jan 13, 2013 at 12:55 PM, ManicDDaily

  7. janehewey Says:

    Your title says much. There is a lot here- with the furniture, the car, Yeats, the girls. It doesn’t sound gloomy to me, it sounds like you’re still reaching for something in it, which could feel gloomy to you, the writer, I imagine. I hope you keep this one alive. It has a power worth harnessing.

    • janehewey Says:

      your “her clenched face drawn to different lines…” is with me still as I go about the day after reading the first time. “lines that resisted far shores” It is such a beautiful connection, the physical realm with her face and pavement to “I will arise and go now.”

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        Thanks, Jane. k.

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        Thanks again, Jane. I re-wrote the poem a number of times over last night and this morning – with big breaks, going out to dinner and skyping with my daughter and lots of other stuff – and shifted the focus so dramatically from the first version – which may have been better, but felt quite sentimental to me. Also, I kind of wrecked it without saving it properly – but I had it close enough – anyway, so I tried to get a bit more distance and also cut cut cut – always difficult for me. Anyway, thanks. I can’t look at it for a while, but some time will. k.

  8. I could feel the intense sadness in this. Beautiful sadness, this is an amazing poem.

  9. Your word choice here is really strong with the tension, the dread, of impending catastrophe–‘pinioned,’ ‘tendoned,’ ‘clenched’ as if we can see the train coming at us out of the fog, tied to the track–so much worse when we can see it coming, yet can do nothing–you give that sense of heaviness, futility, being at a loss for comfort. What kind of comfort could one possibly give? Even the best poetry can’t lift every load, though that is a fine fine Yeats poem…there is way too much future involved in being a mother/father, and letting that go is harder, I would think, than letting your own self go. A very strong and feeling piece, Karin.

  10. No reason to be “uncertain” about that poem. It was outstanding!

  11. Gosh, k. what a moving poem.

  12. David King Says:

    In one way this stanza got to me most forcibly:-

    her clenched face drawn
    to different lines, lines that resisted
    far shores, lines that radiated only
    towards the two girls lapping the stiff-backed chairs.

    but in another way it was the one about trying for the poetry.

    A beautiful poem.

  13. vbholmes Says:

    Sad, heartfelt and touching.

  14. This is just heartbreaking. How does one accept death, when one still has children to raise? You conveyed so much here without ever resorting to sentiment or a maudlin tone. Well done.

  15. Sherry Marr Says:

    Such a heartfelt poem. So true how a mother’s energy is focussed on her daughters’ needs, even in this situation. Very sad.

    I admire “they were chunks of pavement
    in my mouth, the roadway stuck below the pinioning car”. Such clear writing. So well done.

  16. Tony Says:

    Oh my – watching another mother’s daughters grow up like this and losing a friend at the same time. There is strong imagery in here to support the telling of a emotionally rich, if difficult, story.

  17. Robyn Says:

    Wow – your poem really got my heart. How quickly those girls had to grow up.

  18. Grace Says:

    I didn’t find this gloomy at all K ~ Its a beautiful share and reminded me when I visited my mom last year when we thought she was near death ~ I like how you decribed the lines of her face and voice, tubelit glimmer ~ She must be proud of her poised daughters ~

  19. AudreyHowitt Says:

    You made me stop and think of where life and death meet–a beautiful write!

  20. jasmine calyx Says:

    I love these:

    “The teen-long legs of her daughters dangled
    from the arms of chairs”

    “they were chunks of pavement
    in my mouth”

    Oh goodness, this is heartbreaking.

  21. Deborah Says:

    Every stanza is a favorite ~ My heart wept because I, too, understand such a loss. Blessings friend

  22. dani Says:

    and the mother losing more time with her daughters…. very heartfelt, Karin!

  23. Helen Dehner Says:

    Powerful …

    Today I remember Jeanine Petrie … I sang at her memorial service, I wept uncontrollably .. her 7 year old son looking so lost, she was too young, like me. Trying for poetry was not possible.

  24. How eloquently you express, explain, the process of releasing a beloved friend to death. Sharing an uncannily similar experience, I reminisced and counted the blessings that showered down for having been there.


  25. Lindy Lee Says:

    Painfully sad– Excellently written…

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