Poems for Mother’s Day

A few poems of mine that mention mothers:

In that moment, when she rose to speak

I thought of my mother
never getting to do the things
she wanted to do

Everyone had expectations


My mother wore a headscarf

When I was
young,
most women wore scarves
sometimes.
Nobody thought much about them:
rain falls, hair gets wet, floral prints look nice.


I broke my mother’s favorite doll when I was three

It wasn’t something I meant to do
I’m not even sure how it happened
I do remember that one time
I accidentally knocked it off the bed
and onto the wood floor

Maybe that was it

I don’t remember too much about this doll
except that it was one of those antique types
the kind with the ceramic head
like you might see now in a Brothers Quay film

I’m fairly sure it had blue eyes

I don’t remember how
I came to be in possession of this doll
It must have been on the bed I was napping on that day
but I couldn’t tell you why it was there

When I picked it up, I could hear rattling
coming from inside

Some time later, I woke up
from my afternoon nap in the back bedroom
surrounded by blankets—no doll in sight

Sleepy, I shuffled into the living room
Mike Douglas was on TV


Summer 1978

The LP drops onto the turntable from atop the spindle
the other five discs stay neatly in place

The first few notes flow forth from the speakers
it’s summer, and in my mind I’m in California
on a beach somewhere
watching beautiful people play in the surf
from the shade of my umbrella
with a cool drink on the table beside me

I still don’t know what a banyon tree is
but I can almost imagine the music Donald Fagen is listening to
as the yellow, orange, and red of the label blurs into discrete stripes
and the sunlight streams in through my bedroom window
creating shadows on the wall
with a cool drink on the table beside me

Yes, Joe, life has been good
and it’s almost an all-Asylum afternoon
with only the Rumors coming out of Burbank
breaking up the blue skies and their fluffy clouds
while I wait for the werewolves of London
hanging out at night time in the switching yard

I picture Linda hastening down the wind
the governor not far behind
as the sun sets somewhere beyond the trees
My mother calls me downstairs
it’s time to take out the garbage 
We’re having hamburger again tonight…


Food had doubled in price because of the war
(inspired by Panel 11 of Jacob Lawrence’s Migration series)

Mama said we had to do without
so our soldiers could stay fed.
I could tell she wasn’t happy about that,
but she didn’t want to disappoint me,
so she tried to keep a light-hearted tone.

But there was something else in her voice;
it scared me a little.

Sometimes, I noticed her sigh
while she cut up those few vegetables
she was able to bring home from the grocery.

Every so often, she would pause
and stare off into the distance, 
her expression blank.

Once she saw I was watching,
she’d brush her forehead with the back of her hand,
give another sigh
(which she didn’t think I noticed, but I did), 
and tell me to go wash up,
supper’ll be ready soon.

‘Yes, mama…’


Penelope always sought safety in maps

No matter where she was
the ability to map out any place
she could conceivably be
was a source of great comfort

She would picture exactly
how the space might look
the colors on the walls
the texture of the carpeting
the smells in the air wafting in
through the open window

If she did not have a map nearby
she would draw interiors
on whatever scraps of paper she could find
placing each room in perfect relation
to all the other rooms
furnishing them to suit her fancy

On the walls would be hung abstracts
squares of farmland viewed from the sky
places where her imagination could play
for hours at a time
amongst grains of gold and violet
almost ready for harvest

until her mom called her downstairs for dinner


In that moment…, I broke my mother’s favorite doll…, Food had doubled…, and Penelope… are all included in my latest collection, The Lilac Years, available online from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or available to order from your favorite local independent bookstore.

(13 May 2018)