To Mother

Rating: 5.0


In this morning's dream, you lived
in an elegant, old high-rise
atop a steep, rugged hill

whose sides had been built up
along a winding, narrow road
with ancient walls and terraces
running down to a great precipice
and a panoramic view of the city—

a city like St. Louis, but greater,
with the green Cathedral dome,
lots of red-roofed, public buildings
and thousands of colorful homes.

In the sky there, your condo adjoined
a little boutique that you ran.


In my earliest memories
you’re only a voice from the kitchen
and sounds of pots and pans
rattling as I watched TV.

Certain years, the voltage of your nerves
charged every room in our house
and your outstretched palm
would strike like a quick
snake against my cheek.

How did you make the journey
up from those desolate flatlands?


You first ventured out of the house
to an art librarian’s job at the University.
I went with you Saturday mornings in spring
as the dogwood trees blossomed on campus
and you showed me how to tell
a Renoir from a Monet.

Out of domestic imprisonment
you found your way year by year,
mentored by a wise crone
until you came to fill her shoes,
head librarian, grande dame
of the busy Clayton Branch.


Still, I was surprised to find you
up there, in my dream,
at the Center of Things.

You do still worry too much!
If you can't reach me on a Sunday
you imagine terrible things.

But you’ve come all that way
up that dream hill.
Now that you’re retired,
you’ve still got luncheons to host,
dessert spoons to creatively arrange.
You’ve still got your flair for design,
your exercise class and bridge,
faithful relatives and friends.

I like to visit up there.
I enjoy the view on your hill.
I’d hope to have my own hill
and be able to see so far.

this was an attempt to recall in poetic form a dream, which seemed to indicate a great deal of 'progress' in my relation with Mother (who passed away in 2010, several years after I wrote the poem)
Raynette Eitel 09 October 2005

Max, I've read this again and again and find a strange (to me) detachment in the way you have written this. The dream lends itself to impersonalization, as does the house high up on the hill. I don't sense pain here, the way I did when reading about your father...only this detachment and withdrawal. 'I salute what you've done for yourself.' There is a lot of control in this piece. Good work. Raynette

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John Kay 09 October 2005

Max...I was moved by this, and I don't get moved whenever someone says mother. I like the straight forward, restrained tone of the poem, which lifts it from the threat of sentimentality. I like this better than anything else I've read of your, though I haven't read everything.

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Not a member No 4 26 December 2006

Beautiful and very warm poetic tribute to a very special, and still thriving old lady by the sounds of things!

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Mike Finley 29 March 2006

I alkso wanted to say to you: the last stanza is kinda DOA. the sort of thing you tackon for ceremonial purposes, like an anniversary luncheon. Maybe you really ended it with the previous stanza?

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Mike Finley 29 March 2006

It was unclear to me if your mother is still living. She's in a dream, on a hill, in the clouds... and yet the present tense holds. The portrait is very vibrant, I got a picture of a real person, with good gifts. A boutique is a homely image for a woman's regime. And I could sense throyugh the poem the growing appreciation you have for her. And this is nicely balanced. Most mom poems have the snake slap or the cuddles - but not both.

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Ivy Christou 10 October 2005

this was brilliant.. a dream that hides no truths but still includes a melancholy and well controlled emotions. i guess it is never easy to admit love i difficult situations like this.. thank you for sharing HBH

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Pradeep Dhavakumar 09 October 2005

Superb Poem, Max. Liked 'the voltage of your nerves charged every room in our house' and the ending in particular. Thank you.

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