Paulelmo's Blog

Thoughts of My Mother–a poem

Mother, from the kitchen, says,

“That doesn’t happen too often.”

“What’s that?” I ask.

The irregular bursts of her sewing machine have stopped.

“I put the amount of thread that I thought I would need

in the bobbin,

and I ran out just as I was on the last seam.”

“I can imagine that it doesn’t,” I say.

She is pleased.

I am reminded of those small victories that

life gives us at times,

and I vow that I will remember this

the next time I get broody.

Remember this.  Remember this.

 

I could never think of doing any sewing myself,

always having visions of my guiding thumb

slipping under that pistoning needle

while my right foot pressed harder on the pedal

rather than letting off.

The gas instead of the brake.

Same thing with that wringer washer that

Mother had when we were all little kids.

I just knew that the old Maytag would

suck up my arm if I tried

to feed clothes through the way she was showing me.

“Plus catch them on the other end?

Plus manage that little feeder arm?

That probably won’t be happening.

I’d lose an arm for sure.”

 

Sometime later in my youth, long after

Mother had probably given up on me ever

learning to sew or helping to wring out clothes,

she gave me a book of Stephen King short stories.

In one of these stories,

a possessed ironing press in a laundry

started sucking people in and killing them.

See, I thought.

In the preface to that same book, John D. McDonald,

said that there is only one necessary truth

in the life of a writer:

“Writers write,” he said.

I listened.

Maybe now I could learn to sew.

 

While never having seen the light anywhere else, this poem was actually in pulse, the poetry and slam chapbook that I published in 2005. Still, in the fifteen-plus years since I wrote it, that probably is the only time it has ever gotten any exposure. I don’t recall ever reading it aloud, and while it’s possible there are some galley copies of it somewhere, I doubt anyone knows that they have one if they do. Besides Davy of course, the forest bard, the archivist; if he has a copy, he realizes it, and if he doesn’t he can check.

I think for me Davy has always been the archivist just like Jack Torrance has always been the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. Even when he’s not the archivist, he’s still the archivist. He might have a copy. The thing is that this is kind of a re-birth this poem.

It is for me too. In fact, reading it a few minutes ago for the first time in probably those 12 years when I was drafting the chapbook, I liked it so much more than I had expected to. I liked it quite a lot, in fact, and I hope you do too. When it came to mothers, I certainly got the right one.

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