Dear Mother,
I realize now
there was a miscommunication.

We were like children playing “telephone”–
sitting in a circle on the floor, mis-whispering
hand-cupped messages.

So, when you said, or at least meant,
“you are my everything,”
I heard, “you must be everything.”
And when you said, at least meant, “there is nothing
more important,”
I heard, “otherwise, you’re nothing important–”

I don’t know how the wires got crossed.
Maybe you’d misheard the messages yourself–
we were not the only ones
in that circle–

But the words of a song learned wrong
soon belong to the tunes we sing, fit our musics
like a glove.

So, what’s to be done, love?

What comes to mind
is simply kindness–
a kindness that is everything
yet gives itself, too, to nothing important.

It feels–the receiving
of this kindness–like bared hands cupping
one another–
like the breath of palm upon knuckle,
the caress of air’s

It feels–the giving
of this kindness–like these hands cupping
a heart
as if it were an infant animal, baby chick,
some ball of warmth whose murmured messages
we think we well understand.

But it’s hard to cup one’s own heart, to reach
inside the cage of one’s formed ribs, twist elbows
against their grooves;
fearsome to stretch fingers
into that deep,
to find the aching beat one can’t see but must just feel for

when we sometimes seem to feel it everywhere,
even in the boards I pace as I call you, now from a cell phone,
as if the heart could be cut and sanded,
made into planks that we might sit upon, you and me,
holding us upright, as back and forth
we whisper, try too, to listen.


Here’s a poem for Real Toads Open Link night. And also for Kerry O’Connor’s fortuitous prompt on dichotomy.

Explore posts in the same categories: poetry, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

37 Comments on “Circle”

  1. brian miller Says:

    walking the heart…like those boards is not easy…neither is communication…and our messages get mixed easy…trying to live up to being everything…is exhausting.

  2. Oh what a poem this is. It reminds me of The Joy Luck Club, where the daughter totally misheard her mother’s message and what a revelation it was to her when she realized it. Loved this poem.

  3. grapeling Says:

    k, this is one of my favorites of yours, especially the last two paragraphs. ~

  4. as a sibling of nine with a single parent, mamasita, this was very relatable in our household let alone now in our distant geographic locations we all now reside.

    reminds me of that exercise when theres a line of people and the first whispers something to the second and so forth. by the time the last one repeats what he thinks he heard from the previous person it varies greatly from the person who originated the whisper.

    nice take on the mother/son communication and expectations.

    gracias for sharing

  5. I like this poem and its accompanying image, the contrasts, the tensions. I like these musical and lovely lines best:

    “But the words of a song learned wrong
    soon belong to the tunes we sing, fit our musics
    like a glove.

    So, what’s to be done, love?”

    and your answer: kindness. Nice. Wish I’d penned that.

  6. Oh my goodness. Perfect. Universal? Brave.

  7. Karen S. Says:

    Touching and deeply reaches my soul, pulling at my heartstrings. Excellent write.

  8. claudia Says:

    communication is def. one of the most difficult things i can think of…so much potential for misunderstanding each other…love the whole part with the hands cupping a heart ais if an infant animal…

  9. We hear the meta-message in the message, and we hear through our own expectations and experiences and so we miss each other and only kindness sees this and forgives and connects again in love, or tries to. I’ve been exploring my mother’s roots for the last 5 weeks and miss her terribly and realize I also missed her in the way you’re describing when she was alive. This is such a good poem, K.

  10. Kerry O'Connor Says:

    This is amazing, Karin. Phew! You have the relationship pegged – and so many devolve to this, don’t they? The dichotomy between what is said and what is heard is brilliantly portrayed.

    But the words of a song learned wrong
    soon belong to the tunes we sing, fit our musics
    like a glove…

  11. lolamouse Says:

    Messages between parent and children are often misheard, miscommunicated, and/or misinterpretted. Too bad we nurse our wounds instead of talking about it.

  12. mood wings Says:

    I love “mis-whispering.”

    There is so much truth in your words. We’ve all been here.

  13. Steve King Says:

    A marvelous reflection, making clear so many things that are normally only felt, implied, assumed or sometimes regretted by omission. Hope I make sense.

  14. Mama Zen Says:

    This moved me so much!

  15. whimsygizmo Says:

    This is amazing. I especially love:
    “But the words of a song learned wrong
    soon belong to the tunes we sing, fit our musics
    like a glove.”

  16. Marian Says:

    oh…. gosh just great big sigh. very truthy… must not play this out for another generation.

  17. hedgewitch Says:

    ‘But it’s hard to cup one’s own heart..’ maybe the hardest thing of all. Many truths here, which makes it just like life–so many truths coexist that its difficult to unwind one from another, like the voices of the instruments in an orchestra–it takes time to learn, it takes practice(I think the version here of ‘tunes’ and musics’ works very well, btw) . You mentioned the word ‘generosity ‘ in your comment at my place–I feel this is also a very generous poem, one that finds its answers in love and kindness, and exemplifies a phrase I learned down here: “Look over me and not under me.” A very fine, human bit of writing ,k. Best of luck to your friend, and safe travels.

  18. Communicating.– this is actually both universal and personal at the same time… Our constant struggle to get understood (or sometimes misunderstood).. this is what it is being human.. such an acute observation…

  19. Brendan Says:

    When is initimacy’s playing field ever even? When does another ever hear what we mean, and when do we ever stop overlaying what we need to what another says? Doomed from the start, but the revising of the procedure is like writing a poem — stripping back to essentials again and again until something close comes through. It’s hardest with those who are most like us, oddly. That’s why intimacy is so friggen crazy. Is it odd that Alexander Graham Bell, who worked so much with the deaf, invented the telephone?

  20. lynndiane Says:

    So insightful, K! Miscommunication is what we humans do best?!
    Your poignant word picture of trying to gently cup one’s own hurting heart really got me…

  21. […] idea came up for me the other day in writing a poem, called “Circle.”  I had an image in my mind of cupping one’s own heart, but didn’t know where to go with […]

I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.