Archives for posts with tag: mothers and daughters

Terri on Swing
Thread Count
for my mother
by Terri Kirby Erickson

My mother hung wet sheets to dry from a rope
that stretched between two poles in our backyard,
her motions smooth and rhythmic as a synchronized
swimmer. She stooped and straightened again
and again, her hands moving across the line faster
than squirrels on telephone wire.

From my perch on the swing, I watched her work—
pumping my legs until I touched puffy
white clouds with the toes of my shoes, the squeak

of the metal chain steady as a metronome.
My body felt light as dandelion seeds, floating.
Higher and higher I swung, until it seemed
I was a kite soaring on the end

of a string. I slung my head back and let
my hair trail in the dirt, closing my eyes
so the sensation in my belly was like the swift

descent of an elevator in a tall building. The sun
felt like warm maple syrup dripping on my
face, and the air smelled of honeysuckle and bacon
grease in glass jars sitting on the window

sill. I opened my eyes as my mother lifted
the last sheet from the pile, with light illuminating
the threads like the hours in a child’s summer day,
too many to count.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author as a child enjoying her backyard swing set.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: While writing this poem, I opened a portal to my past the only way I can, through my memory of it and the words that come to me when I go back and visit my childhood. Nothing is perfect, of course, but my life with my parents and my little brother in the early sixties, was as close as it gets. My brother is gone now, but I still have both my wonderful parents. This poem is a favorite of my mother’s, who is as beautiful and kind at 77 as she was when I was a little girl, four years old, who thought I was the luckiest kid in the world to have an angel for a mother and a swing set in my backyard.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of four collections of poetry, including her latest book, A Lake of Light and Clouds (Press 53, 2014). Among her many awards are the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize, a Nautilus Silver Book Award, and the Poetry for their Freedom Award. Her poetry is forthcoming or has been published in the 2013 Poet’s Market, The Writer’s Almanac, American Life in Poetry, North Carolina Literary Review, Verse Daily, Cutthroat, Asheville Poetry Review, The Christian Science Monitor, and numerous others. For more information about her work, please visit www.terrikirbyerickson.com.

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All Because I Was Born Laughing
by Joan Jobe Smith

My mother had this picture taken of just us two in a
photo booth in Paris, Texas, February, 1940, to give to
her rich cousin Mae who was related to Jesse James to
show me some day what my mother looked like who
couldn’t take care of me, she had to go to work, be a
waitress, so she gave me away to her rich cousin Mae
related to Jesse James because Mae had a big ranch and
plenty of money for a nanny to take care of me because
I was born laughing, I was not born dead like the doctors
said, because I was born feet first and stopped being born
at the knees for 14 hours till my feet and legs turned purple.
And because I was born laughing instead of being dead,
the doctors said I’d never be right in the head because of
lack of oxygen to my brain those 14 hours and I’d never
walk or talk or feed myself, button buttons, tie my shoes,
get a job and earn my keep, be a wife or mother because
I was born laughing and that proved their theory that I was
not all there–my laughter merely neurological spasms and
my laughter so depressed my father, he went away (but he’d
later come back) and, so, there I am in that photo, only
four weeks old as my bereaving mother hugs me tightly
in her arms in the photo booth, the first photo ever taken
of just us two to give to her Jesse James cousin Mae to
show me some day (if I can understand) because I was
born laughing, laughing in that photo because I’m happy,
surely knowing that my mother is beautiful, so very happy
because I can feel her heart beat, hear her sighs telling me
she’ll come back to get me in just 3 weeks because her heart
will nearly break (she’ll tell me when I’m grown) because
she’ll miss me which is what my mother did. All because
I was born laughing.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Jobe Smith, founding editor of Pearl and Bukowski Review, worked for seven years as a go-go dancer before receiving her BA from CSULB and MFA from University of California, Irvine. A Pushcart Honoree, her award-winning work has appeared internationally in more than five hundred publications, including Outlaw Bible, Ambit, Beat Scene, Wormwood Review, and Nerve Cowboy—and she has published twenty collections, including Jehovah Jukebox (Event Horizon Press, US) and The Pow Wow Cafe (The Poetry Business, UK), a finalist for the UK 1999 Forward Prize. In July 2012, with her husband, poet Fred Voss, she did her sixth reading tour of England (debuting at the 1991 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival), featured at the Humber Mouth Literature Festival in Hull. She is the author of the literary memoir Charles Bukowski Epic Glottis: His Art & His Women (& me) (Silver Birch Press, 2012). Her writing is featured in LADYLAND, an anthology of writing by American women (13e note Éditions, Paris, 2014). Her poem “Uncle Ray on New Year’s Day . . .”  won the 2012 Philadelphia Poets John Petracca Prize. Her latest book is Tales of an Ancient Go-Go Girl. She will appear at the Sunday Salon of the Los Angeles Visionaries Association (LAVA) on April 26, 2015 from 2-4 p.m. in downtown Los Angeles — find out more at lavatransforms.org.

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SONG OF MAYHEM
by Mary-Marcia Casoly

Mother, may I sleep with danger?
To be sure, you shortchange me at every chance!
Mother, may I grow parlance with flowers?
Not until the full moon umbrella steps on parsley.
Mother, may I kiss every knot of the wild?
You’ll come to make the very trees crabwalk and commit to arson.
Mother, is your whim for your seven daughters always so impartial?
No arousal is ever without risk.
Mother, may I be with child?
When you’ve trusted your own thin larceny, and not before opening
and shutting the Book nineteen times, jumping forward with feet apart,
then again, bringing your feet back together.

Mother, may I swim the ocean in order to find love?
You must wait an hour after eating before taking to water and
you must lamppost: lie face down and stretch arms forward, bring your feet
to that point reached by your fingertips.
Mother I have spoken in tongues!
For naught, you did not ask!  Walk backwards this very minute, return to
the starting line.

Daughters you will age me before my month is due.
Mother may I sing your song of mayhem: I love him. I love him, he is my frog.
Mother, may I may I may I may I may I may I —— eye May?
Son, wherever did you come from?

IMAGE: “Madame Meerson and Her Daughter,” pastel drawing by Mary Cassatt (1899).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “The Song of Mayhem” came from memories of the schoolyard, the children’s game: Mother May I. The movie title Mother, May I Sleep with Danger (1996) spurred along a sense of It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature and the Seven May Sisters.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary-Marcia Casoly is the author of Run to Tenderness (Pantograph & Goldfish Press 2002) and the editor of Fresh Hot Bread, a local zine of Waverley Writers — an open poetry forum based in the San Francisco Bay area. Her chapbook Lost Pages of Bird Lore was published by Small Change Series, Word Temple Press (2011) Her chapbook Australia Dreaming is included in the The Ahadada Reader 3, published by Ahadada Press (2010).

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MAY OR MAY NOT
by Tara Andrews

I may or may not
know the answer to
the Jeopardy question
when I’m watching
the program with
my mother, who
likes to win, to be
right, to know facts.
 
Even if I may know
the answer, I will not
say the answer.
 
If I say the answer
I may ruin my mother’s
day. She looks forward
to the program from the
time she gets up. Sometimes
she stays awake all
night, waiting for
it to come on.
 
My biggest temptation
comes when I know
the answer to Final
Jeopardy. The answer
sticks in my throat
like a fishbone.
 
I think my mother
senses that I’m holding
back, that I know more
than I let on.
 
She’s smart that way.
Too smart to reveal
everything she knows.
At least to me.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tara Andrews is a poet and author of children’s books. Visit her at taraandrewswriter.com.

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A PRACTICAL MOM
by Amy Uyematsu

A practical mom
can go to Bible study every Sunday
and swear she’s still not convinced,
but she likes to be around people who are.
We have the same conversation
every few years—I’ll ask her if she stops
to admire the perfect leaves
of the Japanese maple
she waters in her backyard,
or tell her how I can gaze for hours
at a desert sky and know this
as divine. Nature, she says,
doesn’t hold her interest. Not nearly
as much as the greens, pinks, and grays
of a Diebenkorn abstract, or the antique
Tiffany lamp she finds in San Francisco.
She spends hours with her vegetables,
tasting the tomatoes she’s picked that morning
or checking to see which radishes are big enough to pull.
Lately everything she touches bears fruit,
from new-green string beans to winning
golf strokes, glamorous hats she designs and sews,
soaring stocks with their multiplying shares.
These are the things she can count in her hands,
the tangibles to feed and pass on to daughters
and grandchildren who can’t keep up with all
the risky numbers she depends on, the blood-sugar counts
and daily insulin injections, the monthly tests
of precancerous cells in her liver and lungs.
She’s a mathematical wonder with so many calculations
kept alive in her head, adding and subtracting
when everyone else is asleep.

PAINTING: “Seawall” (!957) by Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993).

SOURCE: “A Practical Mother” appears in Amy Uyematsu‘s collection Stone Bow Prayer (Copper Canyon Press, 2005), available at Amazon.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy Uyematsu was raised in Southern California by parents who had been interned in American camps during World War II. She earned her undergraduate degree in mathematics at the University of California at Los Angeles. She is the author of several poetry collections, including Stone Bow Prayer (2005), Nights of Fire, Nights of Rain (1997), and 30 Miles from J-Town (1992), which won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize. Uyematsu co-edited the seminal anthology Roots: An Asian American Reader (1971), and her work has been included in the anthologies Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics from California (2008), The Misread City: New Literary Los Angeles (2003), and Sister Stew: Fiction and Poetry by Women (1991). She has also collaborated with multimedia artists Joan Watanabe and Roger Shimomura. Uyematsu taught math at Venice High School for more than 25 years before retiring. She lives in Culver City, California.

Author photo by Raul Contreras

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MOTHER, WASHING DISHES
by Susan Meyers

She rarely made us do it—
we’d clear the table instead—so my sister and I teased
that some day we’d train our children right
and not end up like her, after every meal stuck
with red knuckles, a bleached rag to wipe and wring.
The one chore she spared us: gummy plates
in water greasy and swirling with sloughed peas,
globs of egg and gravy.

Or did she guard her place
at the window? Not wanting to give up the gloss
of the magnolia, the school traffic humming.
Sunset, finches at the feeder. First sightings
of the mail truck at the curb, just after noon,
delivering a note, a card, the least bit of news.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Meyers is the inaugural winner of the Cider Press Review Editors Prize for her poetry collection My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass. The collection was also a finalist for the National Poetry Series, the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and the Robert Dana Anhinga Poetry Prize. Her book Keep and Give Away (University of South Carolina Press, 2006) received the South Carolina Poetry Book Prize, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Book Award for Poetry, and the Brockman-Campbell Book Award. Her chapbook Lessons in Leaving received the 1998 Persephone Press Book Award. A long-time writing instructor with an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte, Meyers teaches poetry workshops and classes in community programs. She is a past president of the poetry societies of both North and South Carolina. She and her husband live in the rural community of Givhans, South Carolina.

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MAY DAY BECOMES YOU, IT GOES WITH YOUR HAIR
by Joan Jobe Smith

Sometimes I feel my mother is still alive, like five
minutes ago when I wanted to show her my
new silk blouse, ask her how she likes it, tell her how
I had her in mind when I picked it out because she
always liked me wearing white, said I looked so nice
and clean. (Remember how your mother liked
to keep you nice and neat?) And when I shook myself
back to Now, realized she’d been dead nearly 30 years,
I could hardly believe it, because I’d felt her so near
and real as this silk upon my skin, felt the air around me
turn as warm as the sweet of her breath when she
smiled because I looked so clean in this white blouse.
(Remember how your mother’s lips were naturally pink
as May Day azalea?) For years after she died, every day at
four o’clock in the afternoon, no matter where I was:
at work, on the freeway to L.A., a train to London or
crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge, I’d jolt a four-
o’clock horror that I’d forgotten to take her the morphine
she needed by 4:15 or she’d tremble with seizure and pain
as she lay dying upon her mattress grave. But today, May Day,
at 4:35 when she saw me white and nice in this white blouse
she didn’t hurt anyplace anymore when she reached
quick butterfly from far away and touched my cheek.

PAINTING: “The Redhead in a White Blouse” by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1889).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Jobe Smith, founding editor of Pearl and Bukowski Review, worked for seven years as a go-go dancer before receiving her BA from CSULB and MFA from University of California, Irvine. A Pushcart Honoree, her award-winning work has appeared internationally in more than five hundred publications, including Outlaw Bible, Ambit, Beat Scene, Wormwood Review, and Nerve Cowboy—and she has published twenty collections, including Jehovah Jukebox (Event Horizon Press, US) and The Pow Wow Cafe (The Poetry Business, UK), a finalist for the UK 1999 Forward Prize. In July 2012, with her husband, poet Fred Voss, she did her sixth reading tour of England (debuting at the 1991 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival), featured at the Humber Mouth Literature Festival in Hull. In November 2012, Silver Birch Press published her literary profile entitled Charles Bukowski Epic Glottis: His Art & His Women (& me), available at Amazon.com. Her writing is featured in the May 2014 release LADYLAND, an antholology of writing by American women (13e note éditions, Paris).

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WOMAN WITH A GREEN OLIVE, FLOATING
by Lori McGinn

Mom,
Do you remember?
There was that time
You were all fashion savvy,
With your martini,
your fancy cigarette holder?
Pall Mall cigarette poised.
There was a pool, a party,
Me, at the bottom of the pool
looking up, wondering when to breathe.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lori McGinn is a mom, grandma, baker of cookies, visual artist, and writer of poems. A native of Whittier, California, her work has appeared in several anthologies and her chapbook, Waiting, was published as a part of the Laguna Poets Series.
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“Woman with a Green Olive, Floating” and other poetry by Lori McGinn appears in the Silver Birch Press Green Anthology — a collection of poetry and prose from more than 70 authors around the world — available at Amazon.com (free Kindle version until 12/21/13).

Photo: “Classic Martini” by Ken Johnson, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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GOOD WIVES DON’T DRIVE
by Joan Jobe Smith

My father refused to teach my mother
how to drive his car, he said it
wasn’t ladylike in 1949, a woman driver

was no better than a streetwalker she was
to take the bus and be a good wife like
his mother was so my mother took secret

driving lessons, the instructor man
coming every day in his grey sedan
to show her how to let out the clutch

just right so the car wouldn’t jerk, how
to work the choke and the radio, make
turn signals, arm bent up for right

straight out for left, down for slow
me in the backseat watching as we drove
the L.A. streets: Firestone. Rosemead

Sunset Boulevard, Pico, La Brea and
Santa Fe and the day she got her drivers
license she bought her self a green 1939

Ford coupe and waited in the front seat
in the driveway for my father to come home
honked the horn at him when he arrived

and said Hey handsome, need a ride?

Photo: 1939 Ford coupe (a green one!)

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MOTHER, WASHING DISHES
by Susan Meyers
                                       She rarely made us do it—
we’d clear the table instead—so my sister and I teased
that some day we’d train our children right
and not end up like her, after every meal stuck
with red knuckles, a bleached rag to wipe and wring.
The one chore she spared us: gummy plates
in water greasy and swirling with sloughed peas,
globs of egg and gravy.
 

                                    Or did she guard her place
at the window? Not wanting to give up the gloss
of the magnolia, the school traffic humming.
Sunset, finches at the feeder. First sightings
of the mail truck at the curb, just after noon,
delivering a note, a card, the least bit of news.

Susan Meyers is the author of Keep and Give Away, (University of South Carolina Press, 2006), available at Amazon.com.