Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday Poem: an earlier version published in Footwork 1987

My Mother Always Seemed Bigger Than Me

her face as round as a Russian Doll’s.
She even wore a babushka when it rained.
And her mother bigger still, enveloping her
in the do’s and don’ts of the world,
all the frowning dimpled faces and stocky bodies,
with wagging stubby fingers: No, no, no.

And my grandmother’s mother before her,
wearing cabbage and bacon grease perfume.
All the way back to Holland they go,
All of them closing over me, each 
generation more massive than the last.
All of them cast from a similar mold,
their arms painted on, akimbo over aprons,
faces barely holding in the rage they feel,
about working, working, always working
for children who don't appreciate.

O lineage of matriarchs, who tucked
your sheets too tight, I see you floating 
above me as my shadow comes down,
round as a bell jar,  grim as the final 
hour of night over my daughters, 
passing on that darkness, 
whether I want to or not.


Ben Hur said...

This is so true and these days it doesn't only have to apply to women. As the stay-at-home parent for my two sons since mid-2005, I know only too well the suppressed and sometimes unsuppressed rage of slaving away domestically only to be un-noticed and un-appreciated.

I love the conclusion of this poem too. Very apt.

Michelle Elvy said...

Really like the way you bring these women to life in this poem. The opening with its specific image drew me right in, and I stayed all the way to the bell jar near the end... what a good ending, too. The reader senses a dark layer underneath, and yet something connected too, like the stacking dolls in the picture. This whole post works so well. Glad I wandered here tonight.