Meter Maids


Meter Maids

I don’t much care for painting by numbers
but we made poems up
on our hands, my mom and I, counting syllables
on our fingers in the bath, the rumple
of her skin grown red, me in front or back,
being little, trying to find lines
that would ta-da right.

Water gleamed off of her
in beams as she ran the washcloth
over shoulders, upper arms, breasts two dangling
streams, lips dry to the last face wash,
murmuring trial rhymes.

The poems were simple and, like paintings
by number, stayed within
the lines; still, absorption
fogged the room, wrapping us
in its bared wings, keeping my mother too, my busy busy
mother, so close and gently captive.

What a miracle it was–words
broken into a count that added up
to verse–a universe–and me an initiate
into some secret society
that had learned how to make it
stand still.

Here’s a poem, really an homage to my mother who introduced me to the idea of meter in poetry. She did not write poetry much herself, and her version was pretty much syllabic, but she did give me a very early introduction to the whole notion of the thing. Usually it was done in a shared bath, when I was really very small. I am incredibly grateful. I wrote this for for the dVerse Poets Pub Poeticsprompt on numbers in honor of their second anniversary (hosted by the lovely Laurie Kolp.)

(I’ve actually been very concerned about numbers today as I also corrected a sonnet that only had thirteen lines. The fourteen line version can be found here, and if one is interested in process, has a link to original.

I have also edited this poem since first posting.

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38 Comments on “Meter Maids”

  1. howanxious Says:

    Beautiful… it is nostalgic and a lovely tribute to your mother. I was smiling all the way till the end of the poem. I love to count syllables.. sometimes when I have written a haiku, I’d get into counting syllables of words in any blog post I’m reading automatically… 🙂
    Have a good day(or night) as it is wherever you reside…

  2. Laurie Kolp Says:

    What a treasured memory, and so vivid with the bath, too… counting out syllable.

    I never much liked paint by numbers either. Too predictable. = )

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      I have a lot of sympathy for painting by numbers– people must have strong ideas of what is presentable, and want to meet that idea – but I agre, it does seem to be a bit limiting. Thanks, Laurie. k.

  3. brian miller Says:

    an initiation into a secret society…this is touching…my son write now..he keeps a notebook…and surprisingly it is my youngest, the athlete and not my older, more artistic boy…he writes one a day and brings them to me…simple rhymes…mostly funny…but its a connection, like you had with your mom…smiles…i am tearing up a bit so i will end there…lovely k

  4. Mary Says:

    What a beautifully touching poem this is, Karin. I used to tell stories with my mother. She would start, then I would continue, then she would continue, and we might have a story going on that would last for a few days until one of us ended it. I loved this. But never poetry.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      That sounds lovely, Mary. I don’t quite know why we did all the syllabic counting, though I was quite interested in poetry as a child. What I don’t know is whether my interest pre-dated out doing this, or grew out of it. (I’m guessing the latter!) k.

      On Sat, Jul 20, 2013 at 10:42 PM, ManicDDaily

  5. What a wonderful, magical memory. My mother also loved stringing words together, and word games. I know her love of language rubbed off on me.

  6. Jamie Dedes Says:

    What a fabulous experience and how magical to relive it through the gift of poetry. This is extremely well written and completely charming.

  7. How beautiful to remember your mother that way, and recalling poetry in bath… but a sonnet with 13 lines sounds ominous… 🙂

  8. claudia Says:

    broken into a count that added up
    to verse–to a universe–and me an initiate
    into some secret society… beautiful magic in this k. – love how the small and simple counting of syllables becomes something so big and magical

  9. hedgewitch Says:

    Not enough adults admit children to that inner world where things loved are shared and taught through fun…it’s wonderful to know that somewhere a little girl was introduced to poetry and counting and life with a washcloth and the simplicity of a basic shared experience. Very warm read, k.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks – I realized on the bus down to City that I wrote this pretty fast and got caught up enough in the glow I didn’t put in that part of the universe I wanted to keep still was my mother – a very busy sort of person even now, so may try adding something into that. Always a hazard when posting fast – and then getting the grit to go back and re-write seems harder to find – but will maybe. You are right re adults sharing these things – really wonderful. k.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      I have edited now to add that concept in – agh–maybe better, I don’t know.

      On Sun, Jul 21, 2013 at 10:38 AM, ManicDDaily

  10. aka_andrea Says:

    loved this glimpse into the wonderful world you shared with your Mom and clearly she impacted your life in this way as you are such a wonderful writer.

  11. Ruth Says:

    love “trying to find lines
    that would ta-da right”

    & the final stanza especially, but the whole poem I find so, so beautiful

  12. Rowan Taw Says:

    Oh, this is such a lovely memory to share with us.

  13. Miriam E. Says:

    Karin, thank you for sharing such a treasured memory. just beautiful. the last stanza especially got to me… wonderful write.

  14. what a distillation of remembrances that can’t be really counted yet, yyou’ve added these memories into 14 lines! A tribute your mom created in moments.

  15. Very cool! A lovely homage!

  16. kelvin s.m. Says:

    …ah, you are lucky to have someone in the family influenced you to artistic world… my parents both have different line of interest & none of them were really interested in poetry… mum was all up for gardening & cooking while dad always would talk about politics & law.. sometimes i felt like outcasted & would just simply leave to somewhere with my poetry… maybe one reason why i get into blogging…to find a place for my poetry that my family didn’t much appreciate… i am lucky poetry i was sent to a school where poetry & english were being taught or i would never have discovered this li’l gift in writing… smiles… this was wonderful Karin… enjoyed it… smiles…

  17. Susan Says:

    I love this, its intimacy and its physicality and its meter too. What a wonderful way to never forget.

  18. That is really, really lovely. And I count the syllables on my fingers too. Ta-da!

  19. janehewey Says:

    beautiful. the moments, especially intimate ones like this, we spend with our mothers shape the viscera of our thinking and actions. this feels like an honest tribute to that relationship. I enjoy the picture that goes along with your poem and also your double edged title. very good reading.

  20. Sara v Says:

    That was a brilliant game to play, poetry so easily dismissed and she gave you that gift–love that line “to verse a secret universe” Wonderful! 🙂

  21. dtdeedge Says:

    wow. very good. the meter caught me off guard, an made me rethink what I was seeing. nice

  22. Marian Says:

    wow, love this. i can’t help but wonder if my children see me this way 🙂 thanks for sharing.

  23. Kay Davies Says:

    “an initiate into some secret society” — wow, I think there’s more truth than fiction in this phrase, Karin. Poets are special people who approach the world from a different perspective. What a great gift your mother gave you: closeness and creativity!

  24. gabrielle Says:

    Oh this is so vivid and fresh. what a wonderful gift she gave you. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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