Posted tagged ‘mother-daughter poem’


April 8, 2022


When my mother was very old she would push back her hair
from her forehead. 

Actually, the white hair, ascending from a widow’s peak, was already trained

But she would pass one hand over it again
and again,
talking of how she loved her mother to do that
when she was small, and how comforting it was (she had recently realized)
to rub the hair back herself. 

I find my hand at my forehead in the pre-dawn darkness, 
reaching for a pass over my hair, but I do not find
it comforting—

though I too loved my mother caressing my forehead
when I was little, loved laying my head upon her lap.
This was usually in the car—we did not have car seats then,
and it was a time
when she was still.

Even just thinking of it, I can remember
the cool warmth of her hands, her lap—
that’s how it was, cooling and warming at once
as we hovered above the roll
of wheels and road.

But this morning the feel of my hand at my forehead
freaks me out; I cannot be so like my old mother
not now, not yet.
I pull the hand back beneath the covers and even when I tell myself
to just try it, try it again, I cannot make myself lift my arm.

Give it twenty years,
(if lucky.) 


Another draft poem for April.  Not sure about these things.  Sometimes I cut them in ways that they are probably not comprehensible to others and that’s terrible; other times I feel like I go on too long, and lose clarity in too much explication.  Agh! 

Take care.  (As always, pic/poem are mine; all rights reserved.)

Wound (Passed Down)

August 5, 2017

Wound (Passed Down)

My mother didn’t know
the contours of her wound
so had to sculpt mine
by feel
as if she were a blind girl
and I were a piano that she heard
by touch,
only that would have been a deaf girl
and she didn’t honestly
touch much.

At a certain point, I took charge
of my own wound,
but since I also worked by feel at first,
its deepening seemed somewhat haphazard
like the chance radio station
the frequencies always
default to.

It was only as I grew older
when I could see it in the mirror
or when I looked down
at my person
that I became conscious of where
I put in the dirk.



Poem for Margaret Bednar’s lovely quilting challenge on Real Toads.  Not sure this exactly fits but what I have.  The above an image from fabric saved by Margaret.  Process note: dirk is a small knife (probably more properly a small dagger of Scottish Highland origin.)


The Moment My Own Nurse

July 29, 2017

The Moment My Own Nurse

Of course, she’d been drugged, but
“I just can’t believe it, I can’t
believe it,” she exclaimed even as
she breathed, and in the elevator,
took my face in both hands,
as I bent over
the gurney, and

‘oh” my name, she said, you know, saying
my name, and “oh” my name
so intensely that the nurse
teared up,

and it’s not that we
are in perfect synch or
though I did know how to calm her somehow
both pre- and post-op, playing just the right music into
her almost deaf ears, able too to sing

still, it was a moment–my mother loving me–
no, my mother always
loves me–but my mother loving me
with her hands–

I can feel them yet, the flow of blood that turned
the cool palms pink, there
on my cheeks,
I can feel them



For my own prompt on Real Toads (posting later today) to write a poem using narrative.  The drawing is mine; all rights reserved.   

ps will be traveling today so may be late in returning comments, thanks!

My Inner Confessional – If Its Walls Could Talk

April 13, 2016

jamie_exhibit-32My Inner Confessional – If Its Walls Could Talk

If walls would say what they should–I do not mean
if walls would just stick
to the script, but rather

if walls would speak
what was in their hearts, that is,
their I-beams, that is,
the borne cross of inner
rebar and all that zig-zag
of wood-should–

that is, if walls would say aloud
what they whisper
into their pillars,
these walls
could not help but speak
of forgiveness,

for these walls, whatever you want to say,
about their speech, are per force
good listeners,
and no wall listening to even my faked

could mistake the sadness
behind all that sinning and sensed

(So, maybe the walls I like to imagine
are softer than the walls
of the archetypical confessional–
mine having been weakened
by an awful lot of headbanging–)

my walls, if I would but cede them words,
would say some wall-talk equivalent of
the laying on of hands
(you know, wall hands)–

I can still feel that cool plaster, when, as a child,
I ran my feet up up the stretched expanse
at the side of my mother’s bed; it was like
the soothing
of my aching head,
only she’d be sleeping then, her arms about
her middle,
and it was, actually, well
a wall.


15th drafty poem for April, National Poetry Month.  I wrote this one for Mama Zen’s prompt on Real Toads about if walls could talk.  Pic was posted by MZ–not sure it equates to my “inner confessional” but close enough. 


October 17, 2015


Note that this pic only suits the poem in the most metaphoric way.


It felt as if she’d put a fake eyelash
on her whole head, as if her whole head flirted
with the world, batting itself with the flippancy
of hair curled,
though it was just a fall of auburn hair (framing her face)
and not
from grace,
a purchased dangle of pageboy mod
that made my mother
a strange woman in my eyes, that is,
a woman–
a role that with the bald
totality of youth, I thought, reserved
for me–

In the same way that many
years later,
when I met her at an airport,
I saw a loop of dry toilet paper
dangling from the back waist
of her navy pants suit
and understood, in one fell swoop,
that she’d become
an old woman,

and that I would too,
(if lucky),
which silenced my flip
remark, as, masking
the movement, I caught the tissue, curling it
into a wad–

In those frames, time’s lash
snaps us to, eyes opening
in batted blinks–
Real enough, though–

My drafty offering for my own prompt on With Real Toads to write something stemming from the idea of fall.  The fall at issue is a hair piece of a type that was once quite popular, longer hair to be worn almost like a hat, with a hairband covering the place where the hair attached. (Unlike a wig, a fall was worn for a change of style primarily, not to hide any bald spot.) 

The pic (mine) doesn’t really go with the piece, but I just liked it.


From a Crawlspace

August 14, 2015


From a Crawlspace

Dear Mom (she wrote),
I worry when I don’t see you,
and when I see you,
I worry you do not
see me.

Our tragedy.

Trying to please the other,
as if the other
were the mother–

And you, winded and wound
are now pleased
by nearly all–

while I’m still wound
up, beached
in some gone breach–
the caked dust at the roots
of your window, the viscous air
we swam through
room to room, the much-vacuumed
carpet, its green closer
to a uniform at war
than a blade
of grass–

Why can I not get past
the so long past?
grasp what is nearly over–
understand it’s time, in time.

dear mom (she wrote), dear mother–


A draft poem of sorts for Izy’s Out of Standard on “Pigeon Superstition” on With Real Toads.  Note that all poems are not autobiographical! This is an odd one for the prompt.

The pic is mine, done on a paper tablecloth at a restaurant (bar!)


How Things Sort Out

August 2, 2014

How Things Sort Out

My mother looks up at me
from the crook of arm and comforter
and I say, “rest,” and she says, “sometimes,
when I’m lying down, I just can’t help thinking of–”
and I expect her to unspool
some much-wound thread of how
it all turned out okay
in the end, but instead, she says,
“my second grade teacher–”

The comforter is speckled with pink flowers; a stain, I notice, floats just
at the level of chest, a small maroon half-moon,
from who knows when, years–

“the Slapping Machine… and that
poor boy–”

I’ve heard of this teacher before, Mrs. White,
who made the kids memorize bible verses and
slapped them when they did not,
slapped them, it seems, for just about anything–

I’ve heard of the poor boy too, the one who was always
late, and for some reason
was particularly slapped,
especially when he cried,
my mother wanting to shout at
the teacher,
don’t you know he’s crying because his dad’s died,
killed himself when he lost
the family’s farm–

My mother wanting to shout
until the teacher slapped her too,
then made her hold a mirror as she cried,
all afternoon,
so she could see
how ugly she was, tear-marked–

My mother is 91 now
and much of what she once remembered
is clouded, and all the different things she always believed anyhow,
she now proclaims that she read in The New York Times,
though the stories she likes most are her own,
angled with self-promotion, self-

Which can sometimes be kind of irritating; not that we always
butt heads,
but it is hard
to support someone who is busy
propping up themselves, the space filled
with elbows–

Me too liking to self-justify, and how is it that
we carry these mirrors

“Try not to think about it,” I tell her, again patting
the lid of comforter, its sprawl
of small pink flowers over
her folded arms, her own hand now over
one cheek–



This is very much of a draft sort of poem, but I’m busy enough to know that if I keep working on it, I’ll just despair and never put anything up!  So, I’m posting just for me essentially and thanks for your indulgence.

To Either of My Daughters As Infants (Or Both)

July 11, 2014


To Either of My Daughters  As Infants (or Both)

What I want to say is
there was no present like
that time–

What I want to say is
there are no eyes as blue as the sky
around a full moon
some evenings–

except perhaps yours
looking up at me,
your face as fair
as some faces are,
too young to have seen much sun–

and my arms felt like the sky,
encompassing time and effortlessly

And though there is something in me
that forever times
the present, that is bluer
than evening sky and more alone in that blue
than even the starless–

what I want to say is
there was still that time, your presence–
eyes looking up at me
and me looking right back
when there was nothing
we wanted for
and all to be said,
was said,
in soft high pitches.


Here’s a draftish poem for my wonderful daughters and the wonderful prompt by Herotomost on With Real Toads “I Must Refrain.”   This has been edited a couple times since first posting. 

PS–my job has kept me extremely busy lately, so if I’m missed returning a visit–please forgive—or better, let me know!  




Free That Day

April 5, 2014


Free That Day

“so, that’s the Hall of Mirrors,” I said,
hoisting my little one by her waist–not so little–nine–
but no way could she tiptoe to the height of the paned
“where they signed some big treaties–um–”
darting looks-out–  “World War I–”

the red checks of her dress’s skirt bunched,
in my hold, into the flower sprigs of
the bodice, a pattern of mismatch like
our socks, after travel, our feet now
interlopers in the gravel that bordered
the razor-sharp lawn, there, on the other side
of the bunted rope
we’d just slipped around–

”Can you see?” to her older sister.
Balancing her too then
on my braced knee, against
the stares peering back at us–
our own in the blinked
sheen–so hot, a record
for Paris–
“They’re super tarnished

“Yeah, it is huge–”
But no guards, it seemed, the one day of the week
the Palace was closed,
not that saw us scooting back to the gardens–”really the best part–”
with its avenues of shrubbed poodle tail
where one or two capped men, sitting beside
the refracted bronze of dolphin leap and nymphic breast–
“and, at least, it’s not crowded–”
found sun translated to breeze.

That may be the day I remember best
of that whole trip
when the guidebook slipped past me
and we ended up seeing ourselves
in historical glass, as if we too
were a secret part of it,
nearly always the way
of women and young girls.



I realized once I started this that I had already written about the same incident!  (Agh.)  It has to do with a day we went to Versailles and the palace turned out to be closed.  But that poem is a little bit different and this is this poem–very much a draft!– and certain memories are rather indelible I guess.  At any rate, here’s my fifth this April, posted for the prompt of the wonderful Grace (of Everyday Amazing) on ‘mirrors’ on real toads


Frozen On A Slope Too Steep

February 9, 2013


Frozen On Skis and A Slope Too Steep
(At the Urging of My Daughter)

“I hate you, I hate you,” I said
to my own child, who (wincingly) smiled.
“Just take the turn slowly,” she led

in a perfect and slow-motion wedge.
But in my starts, my tight pace undialed–
“I hate you, I hate you,” I said.

Beside us, snowboarders slip-sped
and skiers spit skid-curves of wild
at my child, who so wincingly smiled,

while I, cryogenically dead,
stuck fast to stilled tilt. She beguiled,
“just take the turn slowly,” and led.


I am not a good or experienced skier, and have a fair amount of fear of steep slopes, in part because I hate the loss of control I feel when going fast.  So, here’s a poem both for the dVerse Poets prompt, hosted by Claudia Schoenfeld, to write about letting go, and a Real Toads prompt, hosted by Hedgewitch (Joy Ann Jones) to write a “cascade” poem, that is, one with a repeated line scheme.  I’m not sure that I’ve met either challenge very successfully, but I did get to the bottom of the hill.  (For more on either prompt, or the cascade form, check out the sites above.)

Further note, I would never have thought that I would ever be capable of saying such words to a child and both she and I were a bit shocked.  I guess it is wrong to label what steep slopes inspire in me as a “fair amount” of fear.  (I am okay on easy slopes and she and I really do get along quite well.  She’s just a much better skier who’s learned that it’s best not to ask me to keep her company to higher heights!)