“The reason I am a poet is entirely because you wanted me to be and intended I should be, even from the first. You brought me up in the tradition of poetry, and everything I did you encouraged.”—Edna St. Vincent Millay (undated letter to her mother)
This quote from Millay is in the margin of one of my journals.
Many of my poems have been written to honor my mother. But she never knew that I became a poet. Quite possibly the only poem of mine that she ever read is the one I wrote for her when I was around nine years old.
That first poem was addressed to my wonderful mother. And child-like, I excitedly handed it to her to show her my love.
As a teenager, I wrote a few poems, but kept them to myself. It would be years before I would turn to writing, not only poetry but also fiction and non-fiction. And by the time my work was being published, my mother (and my dad) had passed away.
They would have been pleased to see my name in print, to read my novel, the children’s books, the poetry . . . they would have been very proud . . .
I’m sure of it.
I found the wild azaleas growing pink
as cheeks hot-flushed in fever from a cold.
I drew the water for my mother’s drink
and placed the petals in a vase of gold.
I saw her shaking hands turn pale and dry
and move along the rim of china vase,
and then extend just as in days gone by
to mine. No one can fill my mother’s place.
Please do not bring to me your roses red
nor wipe away my tears that fall in sheets
to cover her new cemetery bed.
In Heaven she now walks on golden streets
while I go down a dark and dusty trail
in search of pink azaleas for my pail.
A writer’s mailbox is an important part of the writing life. My mailbox, while not empty seemed empty just the same, today, as it often does Tuesdays. I don’t know why that is. Of course, there were the usual pieces of mail– utility bills, advertisements, a letter from Jacques-Yves Cousteau asking me to join the Cousteau Society with money I don’t have.
I have a sweatshirt, a blue one with WRITERS OF THE FOOTHILLS monogrammed in gold across the back of it. Last week, I went with my sister, who had an appointment at the unemployment office and we stood in line waiting for the office to open. I was first in line, wearing the Writers of the Foothills sweatshirt and faded jeans. I felt that everyone was thinking that I must be a lousy writer, standing in line at the unemployment office. I even felt like an unemployed writer. I haven’t sold any writing lately.
The monogrammed shirt was a gift from my son, and it wasn’t my birthday or Mother’s Day, or anything. It was a sweet surprise and I love it. I’ll wear it with pride wherever I go. Even to the unemployment office with my sister.
Her rose corsage for Mother’s Day,
an icy spray
of petals neat
with old and ruffled strip of silk
the shade of milk
tied softly there
in tender care.
That instant my bright blossoms bled
a velvet red
when I caught sight
of hers, frost-white.