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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Mailboxes

From an in-class writing prompt: “Write about mailboxes,” in AP Lang, which spawned the poem “Mailboxes,” by C.W., whose first and last lines were “Mailboxes. / They’re for mail.”

 

Mailboxes are a way to tie a thin string between me and the outside world. Dropping a letter in the rusty one on Waterman or the nicer, bluer one on Elmgrove is a way and a reason to leave my house. Last time I walked out, letters and bills in hand, someone had left a stuffed unicorn, with pink stripes and a bow on its horn, right atop the mailbox. I was hoping some wee child would come along to claim it with a cry of glee; in truth I was hoping she’d be so small that she’d need to be lifted up to reach the top of this squat blue box that towered over her. She never came; I walke on.

But it had me thinking about how mailboxes are safe places in our neighborhoods. They’re places where I can leave a wedding RSVP, knowing it will make it to Indiana. Or a postcard saying, “I miss you,” or a thank you note to my Aunt Laura for sending me my mother’s 1986 Princess Diana wedding dress, which had appeared on my porch, right under my own mailbox 2 days before. They’re repositories of words.