Friday, May 12, 2017

Poetry Friday -- Mother by Ted Kooser

by Ted Kooser

Mid April already, and the wild plums
bloom at the roadside, a lacy white
against the exuberant, jubilant green
of new grass an the dusty, fading black
of burned-out ditches. No leaves, not yet,
only the delicate, star-petaled
blossoms, sweet with their timeless perfume.

You have been gone a month today
and have missed three rains and one nightlong
watch for tornadoes. I sat in the cellar
from six to eight while fat spring clouds
went somersaulting, rumbling east. Then it poured,
a storm that walked on legs of lightning,
dragging its shaggy belly over the fields.

The meadowlarks are back, and the finches
are turning from green to gold. Those same
two geese have come to the pond again this year,
honking in over the trees and splashing down.
They never nest, but stay a week or two
then leave. The peonies are up, the red sprouts
burning in circles like birthday candles,

for this is the month of my birth, as you know,
the best month to be born in, thanks to you,
everything ready to burst with living.
There will be no more new flannel nightshirts
sewn on your old black Singer, no birthday card
addressed in a shaky but businesslike hand.
You asked me if I would be sad when it happened

and I am sad. But the iris I moved from your house
now hold in the dusty dry fists of their roots
green knives and forks as if waiting for dinner,
as if spring were a feast. I thank you for that.
Were it not for the way you taught me to look
at the world, to see the life at play in everything,
I would have to be lonely forever.

Tara has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at A Teaching Life.


  1. This is beautiful:
    "Were it not for the way you taught me to look
    at the world, to see the life at play in everything,
    I would have to be lonely forever."

    Perfect words. Thank goodness the poets can speak to our hearts.

  2. Yes, those last three lines encapsulate a parent's best gift, the resilience to accept loss and still find joy.

  3. Here's to finding the joy and beauty in the simple things, in the world around us, every day.

  4. I love Ted Kooser's poetry. It's hard for me to read this poem through my tears--after loosing my mother earlier this year. My mother had a black Singer sewing machine...and loved irises. I wish we had transplanted some of her flowers.

    Happy Mother's Day!

  5. Ted Kooser shows us our feelings, and then we learn also to pass those important things on, too. Thanks, Mary Lee. I know it's a poignant time for you this Mother's Day.

  6. Breathtaking! I love how he wraps up the sadness of grief in the bursting new life of spring.

  7. I remember reading once that the most important gifts a parent can give a child are roots and wings, and in this celebration of loss and rebirth we can see evidence of both. So much beauty and sadness.

  8. Wow a beautiful poem (new to me). Thank you so much for sharing it -- thinking of you this Mother's Day; it'll be my 4th since my own mother passed. I'm finding new ways to mark this holiday.

  9. Oh, this made me cry, Mary Lee. I had to double check that it was Kooser who wrote it. Seemed like it leaked straight out of your heart.

  10. Years ago, I wrote a poem for my father-in-law using this poem as a mentor. I read it when we planted a tree in his memory. I know this poem means so much to you this year. Hugs!

  11. Oh, Kooser is a treasure! Thank you so much for sharing this poem, Mary Lee!

  12. So sweet, poignant, and true. Many of those lines I could have written about my mom. She had a black Singer on which she sewed me flannel nightgowns. And I love the photo you chose to go with this.

  13. That last line. Thinking of you on this first Mother's Day without your mother.

  14. Oh my, I couldn't get through this one without tears. Thinking of you.

  15. Thank you for this deep, rich, spring poem Mary Lee. It has many layers of life wrapped into it, and these simple gifts from the heart have spoken to all of us here. I am thinking of you too.

  16. Anonymous6:01 AM

    What a beautiful, poignant poem. Thinking of you today, Mary Lee.

  17. Made me teary, too, Mary Lee. I love the way he shows us his magnificent vision, his exuberant, somersaulting, shaggy-bellied vision, and then attributes it to his mother, with love. Right to the feels. Sending you a hug, ML.

  18. The reporting in the second stanza got to me. How we wish we could share the ordinariness of life with those we've lost.

    "You have been gone a month today
    and have missed three rains and one nightlong
    watch for tornadoes."

  19. I missed this last week - what a delight to read this new-to-me Ted Kooser poem. Love the words - "...the life at play in everything." It's never easy to face a Mother's Day without our moms, but I hope this first Mother's day without her was filled with memories for you.

  20. Oh, Mary Lee, the poignancy and rawness of Kooser's words. The perfect poem to carry you through what I would imagine was a tough day yesterday. Sending you a hug... =)

  21. Mary Lee, this poem is so endearing and conjures up so many memories of my mother. Thank you for sharing this piece that must be filling your heart right now. Peace to you.

  22. The last sentence is wonderful!

  23. Sigh. I really needed this today. So often when "words"fail, poetry heals.


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