Mother’s Day has been an official holiday for over 100 years—a few years longer than we’ve been around. Here are four new poems we admire that explore what motherhood actually means, featuring work from Golden in The Offing, Mary Morris in Thrush Poetry Journal, Hieu Minh Nguyen in Poetry, and Dilruba Ahmed in NER.
I got you forever, Girl. You are me. There is no
in this world that can stop your Momma.
by Golden in The Offing
Golden’s persona poem “And I Will Always Be Your Mother” is a stunning account of the different sides of a mother’s duty, from protection to “You eat because Momma broke / her last egg for supper.” The spaces left blank in the first part of the poem evoke a sense of uncertainty, reminiscent of the possibility of death introduced in the opening line, “Shoulders strong. Pallbearer / at your brother’s funeral strong.” In this poem, the possibility of death is always on the table, and so is a mother’s worry. The powerful voice in the poem reminds us, for mothers, what’s at stake is unconditional: “There is no / condition / in this world that can stop your Momma.”
He speaks of a ten-hour surgery
as if it storms today, yet tomorrow
we set sail for sunny Grenada.
from “Appointment with Dr. Siegel“
by Mary Morris in Thrush Poetry Journal
Here is a poem that’s full of surprises — the peculiar brain cactus appearing on a neurosurgeon’s desk, the discovery that a vacation awaits tomorrow, and the shock of the last lines: “I was a new mother. / My blouse flowered with milk.” This poem reminds us that mothers are human beings, too, and that anything can happen.
she used to say no woman could love you & I watch her
pull at her body & it is mine. My heavy breast.
by Hieu Minh Nguyen in Poetry
This haunting poem captures a complicated relationship with a mother who sees her child as her reflection. The actions are all mirrors: both mother and child tell, ask, laugh — demonstrating what else we stand to inherit from our mothers: their distorted views of reality.
They paint themselves into existence
inside the shuttered rooms
of their hearts, where freedom
still bristles. They are stripping veils
from their faces and letting loose
by Dilruba Ahmed in NER
The use of “they” for mothers throughout Ahmed’s poem is evocative of a whole generation of women ancestors “in the long / cracked mirror of history, and war.” The resonant ending reminds us of the sacrifices that mothers make for a future they will never see, “They take one last look at each face.”