For May & Mother’s Day, we looked for poems published recently that speak to the theme of motherhood. These poems all offer a fresh perspective on what it means to begin, to birth, to raise, to mother, to lose—as well as exemplify the best of what our poets’ community is offering today.
When I ask my mother to tell me
a story, she tells me of her cold feet
boiled down in a vat of frogs.
She tells me of the way she danced-
romantic with a mop at her wedding
from MY MOTHER BELIEVES IN MY MARRIAGE AND THIS SHOWS ME HER HEART CAN FORGIVE EVEN YEARS SPENT DANCING ALONE
Grazing the edges of her own personal family history, Candrilli’s poem approaches the tenderness of a mother’s pain with deceptively suggestive and pleasant imagery: dancing with a mop, a vat of frogs, a mother walking her daughter down the aisle. All mothers, the poem reminds us, have their own aloneness, their own history of pain.
My mother took her hammer
and shattered the ice age into ocean
when she made me so I could
teach the waves about forgiveness
and dawn and dawn and the overture
that preludes light it comes at postcard
M. Wright warns us: there’s always room for a mother in a poem. And the speaker’s mother here is delicately placed in the poem’s surreal and disjointed reflections on time, on being body in time, on being a son. May we all have a mother so eager to shatter ice, and a son so eager to see us do it.
You stand in a vanished airfield.
The wind, wild. Your daughter who is dead now
traffics the sound of old jet engines
to teach you how to sing. The sun tattering
your lips, you open your mouth wide & exhale
from Torii Field
Though ultimately about loss, Dingman’s “Torii Field” delivers an incredible compassionate ache—the poem is as cathartic to witness as a greek tragedy. The empty airfield invites us into the sense of absence, the dust and the pollen and the exhaust empty of that thick infant sweat filling the nursery, and that absence becomes, for a moment,—here is Dingman’s incredible generosity—ours too.