Friday, July 02, 2010
I'm posting two poems I wrote several years ago. Neither award-winning, but my personal homages, I guess. The first is something that came out of me asking my mom what she wanted for Mother's Day. Her response was “Write me a poem.” Not a simple task.
The second was another attempt a year or so later. Marigolds are always something I've associated with her. I knew that in Mexico they are connected to the Day of the Dead, so I poked around and found some interesting information about them and their symbolism in various cultures here.
It was the first poem, though, that she framed and kept on her bedroom wall. The Budapest reference was our own – she came to visit me there when I worked in Hungary for a year.
How to Write a Poem for Your Mother
First, create many unsuccessful drafts,
follow ideas into oblivion,
metaphors into cliché hums and mumbles.
Next, check your email.
Read your new messages, but don't answer any.
Sing rainy day songs she taught you.
Wish in passing that you could whistle.
Wonder if it's her fault you can't.
Plant marigold seeds in the rain like she would.
Bring the open seed packet close to your face and sniff.
Know it smells like her.
Open and close your journal several times.
Write the date on a page, then, decide to change pens.
Look at a calendar to find out exactly when Mother's Day is this year.
Re-read all the starts to poems you've begun for her in the past –
they talk about fireflies and butterflies, Tagore and Milne.
Find potential in wings and words and light and flight.
Decide having potential is like being told you are "nice."
Convince yourself you're washed up as a poet.
Spend time wallowing in this thought.
Pull the covers over your head and sleep.
Dream you are with her, walking arm in arm
through beautiful, grey Budapest.
I trail her
through dewy grass,
the bulbs surprising us
here and there
with their plump greenness
from under piles
of last season's leaves.
The pyracantha looks like it'll
do well this year, she says,
moving through her universe,
red berry clusters
in her mind's eye.
Along the walkway, the azaleas
accost us in reds and pinks
and then, like an apology, white.
She names everything we pass,
a casual inventory, a prayer
of things to come.
I take the syllables in
through my pores:
hydrangea, lilac, columbine,
At this last we pause.
Among the first orange blooms
a few dry heads already bow to her
in fervent homage.
Pinching them from their stems,
she scatters the seeds
like chicken feed,
pushes her subjects into the dirt
with the toe of her sneaker -
a haphazard optimism
in the propensity of life –
that it will sprout again
The scattering continues,
tiny quills dipped in black ink
spin to the ground
like soft propellers,
crowding each other into the dirt,
all clamoring to serve her best.