Michael Shepherd

(8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

0357 On not thinking about people you thought you loved


I’d been reading some poems with
– for the first time in my life that I remember –
‘a lump in my throat’; and a pricking in my eyes,
and a sense of the awesome power of that poet
and of poetry itself; and self-criticism
mixed up with envy, wishing I had
that sort of poetic power myself;

and it seemed to call for some sort of
formal acknowledgement of this,
some ritual of gratitude – not necessarily
the darkened room, the candle swaying gently,
the kneeling – but something inner that
was beyond selfishness, some worthy
sacrifice, surrender.
Perhaps, I thought, the thought
of that would have to suffice.

Then quite out of the blue – or so it seemed, but maybe not –
came this painful thought:
that never for a single moment – a single moment! –
in my life, had I ever given thought
to what my mother was like, living her life
before I was born

and I was overcome, stunned, appalled,
at the hugeness of my selfishness,
the smallness of my self-centred world
that I, who pride myself on my imagination,
lacked the imagination even to think of those I love and loved
as existing without me in the picture…

of course, there are photographs –
studio portraits, snaps,
solemn-faced groups with hockey sticks;
the pride of motherhood;
and yet I’d looked at all those without
really thinking of her being her;

but, where to start? The young girl
as her life slowly formed around her?
the teenage dreams; the hopes of marriage;
of giving a loving husband
the greatest living present she could give, and then
the two miscarriages before I arrived
to strut about my centre-stage?

It didn’t work.
and so I’m left with the stark, bare fact
to ponder at my leisure:
I never for a moment thought
of my mother existing as herself
without my being there.

And I thought I loved her, totally. So much
for love’s imagination.

Submitted: Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Edited: Saturday, July 15, 2006

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Comments about this poem (0357 On not thinking about people you thought you loved by Michael Shepherd )

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  • Raynette Eitel (10/26/2005 9:12:00 AM)

    Ah Michael, what seeds you planted with this poem! I think we will see poems about mothers sprouting up all over PH...and that is so good. Excuse me while I go start on mine.

    Raynette (Report) Reply

  • Gillian.E. Shaw (10/26/2005 8:53:00 AM)

    A sort of confession. I enjoyed the poem immensely perhaps because it is an conscientious account and told with skill. (Report) Reply

  • Max Reif (10/26/2005 7:03:00 AM)

    I just read 'The Writer's Almanac' for today, and can easily imagine seeing this poem there. Well told, this tale of the impossibility of putting 'self' out of the picture. The two parts of the poem work together because the flow of your voice is utterly natural and the epiphany is described just as it happened. (Report) Reply

  • Cj Heck (10/26/2005 5:50:00 AM)

    Excellent poem, Michael. What a gift to be given, a beautiful insight into your mother. Your poem is then your gift to us, your readers. I loved it.
    Warmest regards,
    CJ (Report) Reply

  • Mary Nagy (10/26/2005 5:28:00 AM)

    It takes alot to make me cry but this really got to me........this is beautiful Michael. Truly beautiful! It is so touching to feel such love directed at your mother. (By the way, your poet friend has nothing on you........you write wonderfully touching poems) This is a great example. Sincerely, Mary (Report) Reply

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