FreeVerse: Still trying to decide on a title

by , under childhood, death, family, grief, my mom, poetry

Only a few hours after my mother died on October 14, 2009, I got up during the night and began writing this poem. I added to it on October 16, but then didn’t really touch it until last week. Then, I decided to type it up on the computer, maybe do some editing as I went along, see how I felt about it. (My first version was handwritten in a notebook, with lots of phrases crossed out, etc. I needed to see it all typed out to find out if I liked it.) I made a few edits — made some lines longer, added or changed a word or two, added at least one line that seems pretty strong. Looking at the edited version, all clean and printed, I decided I do like it. I haven’t yet found a title for it, but I figured I’d share it here for FreeVerse anyway. πŸ™‚

My mother taught me
to love, in spite of all the wire
and bombs she tied around herself.

I learned a furious kind of devotion,
bound to the woman who brought me
to the world, yet kept her heart apart
from all who lived there.

When I was young, I didn’t know the distance
stretching endless between my mother
and everyone else was a sea she’d built
to make her life a lonely island –
cold and gray, but mostly safe.
She could not give herself away.

My mother wore anger as other women
wear bright colors. Nearly every day,
she painted her self-portrait with exquisite irritation,
ready to make of each hour
another brush stroke in her picture.
That was the mother my childhood remembers.

But the closing chapters also matter.
She quieted, she softened; she lost her
sparring partner – my father.
She gave her soul to waiting,
often patient, though sometimes restless,
until one midnight, finally, following
the path of her last breath,
she escaped.

Written Oct. 14 and 16, 2009 / April 29, 2010

Β© All the parts of my life 2008-2015.

  1. Valerie

    There is so much in this poem that I think is amazing. Very heartfelt,too! I can't even decide on a favorite line.

  2. Kelly

    This is really good….. and still such a fresh loss for you. My sympathy to you.

    The last part really touched me.

  3. quid

    I can read your poem and call to mind several women who mattered in my life (my own mom was somewhat different). You brought them, and your mother to life with these words. Amazing. I know you'll find the right title.


  4. HeathMochaFrost

    I'm sorry it's taken TWO WEEKS for me to respond to these kind, thoughtful, and complimentary comments. It seems a bit pathetic that I basically needed to take a sick day in order to carve out some laptop time! (I got my wisdom teeth out yesterday.) To all of you, a big and hearty THANK YOU for coming by to read the poem, and sharing your thoughts with me.

    Valerie — I'm humbled by such high praise, thank you! πŸ™‚

    Cara — There might be generational factors in play, but I know enough women who serve as "counter-examples" to this, that I think it's more about each woman, her personality, upbringing, and life experiences. Some people can't be kept down, while my mom could barely get up. Although she kept herself apart from people, she actually never lived on her own. (The closest she came to that, I believe, was a fairly short time in a halfway house.) She simply did not know how to take care of herself, and had such anger at the world — anger, depression, learned helplessness. It's just sad.

    Kelly — Thank you for your kind words. Regarding the last part, it's interesting, I really did feel that she'd escaped. In a strange way, she had the life that she chose to have, even though it was miserable. She didn't give in; she was completely stubborn in wanting to remain in her box, or on her island, and that's what she did. Almost the way someone with an eating disorder feels she can't control anything except her body and what she eats, my mom felt like she had no control over anything, and in reality she had GREAT control over her small realm, including my dad, and my brother and me when we were young. She resisted a "normal life," and she "won" that battle, resisting right up to the end.

    Quid — Thank you. πŸ™‚ I haven't thought too much more about the title, but after reading Rae Armantrout and John Ashbery in recent weeks, I'm tempted to just pick a really short title that might not mean anything to anyone but me — just to be contrary about it, and just to say "I finally have a title!" πŸ˜‰ But I appreciate your vote of confidence; we'll see what happens!

  5. Miranda E K

    This is a powerful poem! Very strong opening lines. Some of my favorite lines are:

    "My mother wore anger as other women
    wear bright colors. Nearly every day,
    she painted her self-portrait with exquisite irritation"

    I'd love to see more of your work!


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