Another Poem for Mothers

- 1967-

Mother, I'm trying
to write
a poem to you—


which is how most
poems to mothers must
begin—or, What I've wanted
to say, Mother.
..but we
as children of mothers,
even when mothers ourselves,

cannot bear our poems
to them. Poems to
mothers make us feel

little again. How to describe
that world that mothers spin
and consume and trap

and love us in, that spreads
for years and men and miles?
Those particular hands that could

smooth anything: butter on bread,
cool sheets or weather. It's
the wonder of them, good or bad,

those mother-hands that pet
and shape and slap,
that sew you together
the pieces of a better house
or life in which you'll try
to live. Mother,

I've done no better
than the others, but for now,
here is your clever failure.

More by Erin Belieu

Against Writing about Children

When I think of the many people
who privately despise children,
I can't say I'm completely shocked,

having been one. I was not
exceptional, uncomfortable as that is
to admit, and most children are not

exceptional. The particulars of 
cruelty, sizes Large and X-Large, 
memory gnawing it like

a fat dog, are ordinary: Mean Miss
Smigelsky from the sixth grade;
the orthodontist who 

slapped you for crying out. Children
frighten us, other people's and 
our own. They reflect

the virused figures in which failure
began. We feel accosted by their
vulnerable natures. Each child turns

into a problematic ocean, a mirrored
body growing denser and more
difficult to navigate until

sunlight merely bounces
off the surface. They become impossible
to sound. Like us, but even weaker.

Field

Field is pause   field is plot   field is red chigger bump where

the larvae feed   corn wig curled in your ear. Field cares not

a fig for your resistance   though kindly   gently   lay your

head down   girl   lay it down.
   When ready   storm   when

summer   kilned smoothly as a cake. Awake! Awake and

wide is field. And viral. Biotic. Field of patience   of percolation

and policy. Your human energy. Come again? What for? In

field   there is no time at all   no use   a relief   the effort done

which is   thank you   finally   the very lack of you.   Lay your

head down   girl   lay it down.
   In field   which has waited since

you first ascended to the raw end of your squared off world and

gazed upon your subjects:   congery of rat snake   corn snake

of all the low ribbons bandaging the stalks. Progress in field

foot sliding in matter   slick chaff in fall.   And always   field’s oboe

this sawing   a wind   that is drawing its nocturne through the 23rd

mansion of the moon. Field   is Requiel’s music and the Wild Hunt

of offer. In field   they are waiting   you are sounding. Go home.
 

Dum Spiro Spero

                                      Come, Lord, and lift the fallen bird
                                      Abandoned on the ground;
                                      The soul bereft and longing so
                                      To have the lost be found…


Before the movers came,
we found the sparrows’ nest

concealed inside the chive
plant on the patio.

And the bald chicks there
calling, unfledged, undone. 

Love, the mean days collecting
scored us, and hourly

such years: we feel too much

assembling what our world
got wrong; black artery 

of wires, branched hazard, rat
stinking in the beams. Wrong as

your mattress on the floor,
walls where the only stud

sinks into a metal grief.

Take this distance as you go,
Love, which is my faith, tedious,

steady, like scraping gum
from a shoe. Strong as a cobweb,

I give you this durable string.

Because I remember you:
who saves the sparrows;

the chicks calling and calling
and you who won’t forget them;

have seen the ghost who rents
your eyes dissolve when

your face turns to the light.

Today, I watched the other birds
who lived this winter

peppering our tulip tree. The buds’
tough seams begin to crack.

Ordinary. No sign to read, I know.
But while we breathe, we hope.


epigraph from “Come Lord And Lift,” by T. Merrill

Related Poems

Taproot and Cradle

Evening coffee, and my mother salts
her evening broth—not equanimity,
but the nick of her wrist—

and my mother bakes bread,
and my mother hobbles knees locked,
and my mother carries the soft stones of her years.

Fists balled in my pocket,
riding the century’s drift,
I carry a wish and a wound.

It's raining a noisy frost,
the inhabitants' cruel happy laughs,
their sighs and curses,

small upheavals that slide
from their bellies,
down to their freezing toes..

And the city trudges, and night
loosens its reins, a stolen bulldozer,
a tank full of clowns.

Who’s calling
my name
from the window now?

She touches her hair—
She caresses her beauty
like the coffin of a child.

O pen of late arrivals.
O knife of darkened temples.
O my scurrying, my drunken snakes. 

I wash her hands with summer rain.
I remember the killed enemy.
I remember my good friends.