Sunday Poetry: A feminist Mother’s Day

Sunday poetry is a new series beginning this Spring! Each week, I’ll post a poem that I’ve been thinking about, whether mine or someone else’s. Tune in for an exploration of how poetry can interrupt and enrich our lives when we least expect it to. 

Sunday Poetry: May 11

One of the things I detest most about Mother’s Day (TRUST ME, THERE ARE A LOT) are the facebook posts thanking moms for their sacrifice. My friends praise their moms and think about “all the things they gave up” to make our lives better. Some recognize that they “never wanted for anything,” implying that financial stability is one of the greatest gifts a parents can give. I’ve had a friend assert that one of his reasons for not having children was that he did not feel confident he could make enough money to pay for a child’s entire college education without any loans. It was better not to have children at all than to fail in this essential role.

Inherent in these Mother’s Day posts, to me, is an assumption that a mother’s identity is the sum of her children. Pictures of moms at their daughters’ wedding, or at college graduations not their own. It seems that what we expect from our parents is to sublimate or refuse their own lives and dreams in order to do it all on our behalf.

Isn’t it enough that our parents love us? Can’t we thank them for trying to give us a good life by being themselves, by being role models and teaching us that success isn’t measurable in dollars? Why do we demand their sacrifice?

I tried to write about sacrifice and what other versions of motherhood could be. This isn’t by any means a finished poem, but it’s my attempt to make some sense of the anger I feel and retain some hope that I could be a different kind of mom.

 

i.

how much blood is lost in birth
how much blood in nonbirth
what sacrifice do mothers make enough
to be counted as selfless
as if generating life takes away our selves
steals our bodies
crime of gift to take our minds and our lives

what if motherhood isn’t an altar
or a hospital issuing of what was once mine
not a battle, not a loss
not a taming of the spirit to be always hunched
but rather a transmission to other worlds, other minds
a melding
an embodying

ii.

giving up the self
should only be praised
when it is a lifting of hands to sky
to welcome rainwater in cupped hands.


iii.

what if motherhood is the mama I saw
hastening down the sidewalk
after her toddler practicing walking? 
with every excited step she cautioned
“don’t run, baby, don’t run.”
“there’s lots of cracks, don’t go too fast.”
“just take it easy.”

 

 

There are so many versions and reasons of motherhood, many of which are difficult and dark and sad. I hope that whatever motherhood means to you, you’re doing okay today.

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girls I’ve known (part one)

I wish I had a name like Frankie DeBella. Back when I was a kid playing rec league soccer in my hometown, she was renowned for her prodigious skill. For years we dreaded the weeks we played “Frankie’s team,” because she could dribble circles around us and through us. She’d score on us four or five times int he first half and even when their coach (her father) would take her out after half time, we were so shaken by the maelstrom that hit us that we would play badly.

It was always “Frankie’s team” because there was no amount of mediocrity that could dull her, and no amount of skill that could compete. It was irrelevant who else was on her team that season; she carried them.

At one point in middle school I grew into a solid defender (as long as I didn’t have to run too much) and when we played Frankie, I was assigned to mark her. It was probably the most aggressive I ever played, the most competitive I ever felt. If I could beat that name, stop her progress, slow her down, I could be important to the game, and people would notice me.

Up close, she was beautiful, Francesca DeBella with Italian skin and long swishing dark hair like a horse’s tail. She seemed older than the rest of us, svelte and muscular without the pudginess that ringed our midriffs and thick ankles. She wore eyeliner. She never crowed and never smiled. She was hyperfocused without being overly aggressive. She knew she was on another plane; I’m sure she knew how her name was thrown about in loving, fearful whisper. But for her, the only chase was the ball, the only game was perfection, the only living person at that game was her father, and maybe if she scored one more goal, he would take the rage out of his voice when he screamed the name he gave her.