Friday, August 21, 2009

August Challenge Poems

This month, I have selected two poems on the theme of memory. Remember that the poets still own copyright on their poems, so these works of art cannot be used without permission of the writers. The September challenge will be posted on September 1.


Mother in May

Amid forests of prescriptions she rests,
past knowing the purpose of any,
propped up by bed crank and pillows, and
wrapped in linens of estranged belonging.

On a rolling table a pitcher waits
water for thirst, and musak T.V.
Pink roses crowd her life’s haul of vases
with the bounty of her third daughter’s yard.

Awash in flotsam of photographs,
she sees faces and scenes lost to time.
All talking’s too late to reclaim “the boy,”
her ministering son, or to moor her.

At youth’s bloom she was Queen of the May
in an old crown-the-virgin church rite.
Dare we pray? Dear Mother of Mercy, recall
her the visions and sounds of that day.

-- Jean Waggoner c. 8/2/2009

Jean Waggoner speaks in the voice of a son or daughter (or perhaps, daughter-in-law) whose mother is aged, fragile physically, and “beyond knowing.” This mother, who was once the Queen of May, is again surrounded by flowers. Is it “too late” to reclaim “the boy,” because mentally she has gone backward in time, already passing through the years when she was a young mother and her son was a child? If so, maybe it isn’t yet too late to pray for her to have the pleasure of once again seeing herself as Queen of the May. This is a poignant end-of-life poem.

Perhaps You Forgot

When I was alone and the days were endless,
perhaps you forgot
the feverish, sleepless nights I held you close.

When you said you were coming that day but didn’t,
perhaps you forgot
how you scanned the bleachers ‘til you saw me always there.

When I needed a familiar voice and you screened calls,
perhaps you forgot
that I always answered and gave what I could.

When the day comes that I have forgotten everything,
perhaps you’ll help me remember.

--Judith Tullis

In this piece by Judith Tullis, the narrator speaks as parent (probably the mother) to her adult child who has grown distant. In this poem, it is the son or daughter who has forgotten – forgotten what the mother did for him or her over the years: cuddling on sleepless nights during childhood; showing up to cheer at her child's games; and always doing what she could to meet his or her needs. This mother, who is feeling neglected, wonders if, when her memory is gone, her child will finally remember all this. The conclusion to this poem is a bit of a surprise, however. She doesn't say, when I'm gone, you'll remember and be sorry you didn't take better care of me in my old age. Rather, she says, when I have forgotten, perhaps you will help me remember.

Tullis has made excellent use of repetition in this poem. Addressing the grown child as "you," instead of using a less personal format, gives this poem emotional punch.

(c) 2009 Wilda W. Morris