Two Poems for Mother’s Day

May Sarton (born Eleanore Marie Sarton), was an only child. Her parents fled with their two-year-old daughter from their Belgian homeland when the Germans invaded in 1914, first reaching Britain, and then on to America. Her father, who was a chemist, went to work at Harvard, and got a grant from the Carnegie Foundation. He became one of the notable 20th century historians of science. Her mother was English artist Mabel Eleanor Elwes.

Sarton is one of my most favorite poets. While her poem, August 3rd, was not written for Mother’s Day, it is a lovely tribute to a wonderful mother.


August 3rd

by May Sarton

These days
Lifting myself up
Like a heavy weight,
Old camel getting to her knees,
I think of my mother
And the inexhaustible flame 
That kept her alive 
Until she died. 

She knew all about fatigue 
And how one pushes it aside 
For staking up the lilies 
Early in the morning, 
The way one pushes it aside
For a friend in need, 
For a hungry cat. 

Mother, be with me. 
Today on your birthday
I am older than you were 
When you died 
Thirty-five years ago.
Thinking of you 
The old camel gets to her knees, 
Stands up, 
Moves forward slowly
Into the new day. 

If you taught me one thing 
It was never to fail life.

  Tang dynasty Terracotta Sculpture of a Kneeling Camel

For more May Sarton, click:
https://flowersforsocrates.com/2018/07/20/word-cloud-solitude/

___________________________

Every mother is a person first, and like all people, unique. 

Click here for Diane Wakoski’s poem, “Thanking My Mother for Piano Lessons”

____________________

Thanking My Mother for Piano Lessons

by Diane Wakoski

The relief of putting your fingers on the keyboard,
as if you were walking on the beach
and found a diamond
as big as a shoe;

as if
you had just built a wooden table
and the smell of sawdust was in the air,
your hands dry and woody;

as if
you had eluded
the man in the dark hat who had been following you
all week;

the relief
of putting your fingers on the keyboard,
playing the chords of
Beethoven,
Bach,
Chopin
. . . . . in an afternoon when I had no one to talk to,
. . . . . when the magazine advertisement forms of soft sweaters
. . . . . and clean shining Republican middle-class hair
. . . . . walked into carpeted houses
. . . . . and left me alone
. . . . . with bare floors and a few books

I want to thank my mother
for working every day
in a drab office
in garages and water companies
cutting the cream out of her coffee at 40
to lose weight, her heavy body
writing its delicate bookkeeper’s ledgers
alone, with no man to look at her face,
her body, her prematurely white hair
in love
. . . . . I want to thank
my mother for working and always paying for
my piano lessons
before she paid the Bank of America loan
or bought the groceries
or had our old rattling Ford repaired.

I was a quiet child,
afraid of walking into a store alone,
afraid of the water,
the sun,
the dirty weeds in back yards,
afraid of my mother’s bad breath,
and afraid of my father’s occasional visits home,
knowing he would leave again;
afraid of not having any money,
afraid of my clumsy body,
that I knew
. . . . . no one would ever love

But I played my way
on the old upright piano
obtained for $10,
played my way through fear,
through ugliness,
through growing up in a world of dime-store purchases,
and a desire to love
a loveless world.

I played my way through an ugly face
and lonely afternoons, days, evenings, nights,
mornings even, empty
as a rusty coffee can,
played my way through the rustles of spring
and wanted everything around me to shimmer like the narrow tide
on a flat beach at sunset in Southern California,
I played my way through
an empty father’s hat in my mother’s closet
and a bed she slept on only one side of,
never wrinkling an inch of
the other side,
waiting,
waiting,

I played my way through honors in school,
the only place I could
talk
. . . . . the classroom,
. . . . . or at my piano lessons, Mrs. Hillhouse’s canary always
. . . . . singing the most for my talents,
as if I had thrown some part of my body away upon entering
her house
and was now searching every ivory case
of the keyboard, slipping my fingers over black
ridges and around smooth rocks,
wondering where I had lost my bloody organs,
or my mouth which sometimes opened
like a California poppy,
wide and with contrasts
beautiful in sweeping fields,
entirely closed morning and night,

I played my way from age to age,
but they all seemed ageless
or perhaps always
old and lonely,
wanting only one thing, surrounded by the dusty bitter-smelling
leaves of orange trees,
wanting only to be touched by a man who loved me,
who would be there every night
to put his large strong hand over my shoulder,
whose hips I would wake up against in the morning,
whose mustaches might brush a face asleep,
dreaming of pianos that made the sound of Mozart
and Schubert without demanding
that life suck everything
out of you each day,
without demanding the emptiness
of a timid little life.

I want to thank my mother
for letting me wake her up sometimes at 6 in the morning
when I practiced my lessons
and for making sure I had a piano
to lay my school books down on, every afternoon.
I haven’t touched the piano in 10 years,
perhaps in fear that what little love I’ve been able to
pick, like lint, out of the corners of pockets,
will get lost,
slide away,
into the terribly empty cavern of me
if I ever open it all the way up again.
Love is a man
with a mustache
gently holding me every night,
always being there when I need to touch him;
he could not know the painfully loud
music from the past that
his loving stops from pounding, banging,
battering through my brain,
which does its best to destroy the precarious gray matter when I
am alone;
he does not hear Mrs. Hillhouse’s canary singing for me,
liking the sound of my lesson this week,
telling me,
confirming what my teacher says,
that I have a gift for the piano
few of her other pupils had.
When I touch the man
I love,
I want to thank my mother for giving me
piano lessons
all those years,
keeping the memory of Beethoven,
a deaf tortured man,
in mind;
. . . . . of the beauty that can come
from even an ugly
past.


“Thanking My Mother for Piano Lessons” from Emerald Ice: Selected Poems 1962-1987, © 1988 by Diane Wakoski – Black Sparrow Press


Find more Diane Wakoski here:

https://flowersforsocrates.com/2015/08/07/word-cloud-wrath/

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
This entry was posted in Poetry and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.