A Mother


Next year, we promised ourselves,
we'd have to get it for her next year,
that sculpture in cork and ivory:
framed in a world of glass,
a house smaller than her thumbnail
and trees and reeds
and a bridge to an island
where miniature cranes spread their wings
for flight.

When she saw it first, a month ago,
at that shop in Ayala,
she held it up to the light
with both hands.
She was so afraid it would slip!

Her dreams were larger
than our twelve-year-old pockets.
Instead, papa helped us wrap up
a china cat we'd found
in a sea front store.
We hid it under the towels
in the closet.

That afternoon we put on records
and papa did impressions
with a made up guitar.
Then there was that smoky, rich, funny
smell coming from the oven...
We looked at each other, then raced
to the kitchen in twos.
She laughed, and he laughed too,
as she scraped
the burnt-out bottom of his coffee cake
from the pan.
We didn't.

After dinner we gathered around her,
our hearts beating
like so many small wings.
First the white ribbon, then the box,
then the layered tissues.
"Oh!" she said. "Oh!"
and she held it to her cheek.

There, between the lamplight
and the window, rocked in his arms,
she held it to her cheek.


42 comments:

  1. I enjoy how much of your work is about things other than romantic love.

    This evokes memories of my own, and you write with a lyric grace I enjoy.

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  2. I am totally drawn in and removed from myself reading your work about family. This is just exquisite. The adoration here is tangible to the heart.

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  3. This poem was first published in the League of Canadian Poets' annual collection Vintage a while back. Maria Jacobs, who was a judge of the associated competition, provided very kind comments on the poem.

    Someone else liked the poem enough to select it as a poem for analysis in the Canadian Provincial Exams for English in British Columbia. Students were supposed to answer mutliple-choice questions on this poem and write an essay.

    The exam is here: http://kitsilano.vsb.bc.ca/Students/provincials/2000/00-06-English.pdf

    You may want to try your hand at the questions, I know I did. I wonder what marks I would have gotten?

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  4. Short link - http://bit.ly/s4amother

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  5. nicely played sam...wonderful story telling ability...as is evident by the accolades it has received...you work with a gentle pen drawing us in...

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    1. smiles...so tender the close on this..i feel the anticipation of that gift through my own history...and the desire to give her what she wants but giving her what you can....nice resurrection of this one...fits perfect and is very warming...

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  6. Gorgeous, wonderful, sublime - oops I am gushing and I hardly ever gush :)

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  7. A heartwarming, narrative poem... Wonderful juxtaposition of a younger generation taking great care to keep their gift a secret for such a memorable moment. Stylistically, the repetition at the end is very well-placed and meaningful—your final two stanzas are connected literally cheek-to-cheek.

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  8. oh my, you so beautifully capture the fearsome moment of child adoring mother, wondering if what he can give to her is good enough-- I so love these lines:

    After dinner we gathered around her,
    our hearts beating
    like so many small wings.
    First the white ribbon, then the box,
    then the layered tissues.
    "Oh!" she said. "Oh!"
    and she held it to her cheek."

    and the emphatic repetition that follows. So tender! xxxj

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  9. Just a beautiful, evocative poem --- eliciting tears here.

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  10. Lovely evocation of children loving their mother, and the mother's deep appreciation of anything and everything her children present to her.'Oh', repeated is just perfect, and holding the small bird to her cheek is so touching. Love it.

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  11. So lovely , nice reading you again.

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  12. ah, that sweet-biting feeling

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  13. This is so evocative... and so universal...

    Here is my one shot:
    diamonte

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  14. I felt the love and joy in this one. Beautifully told.

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  15. Poignant piece without any trace of saccharine. What a mother's day card! Beautiful work as always, Sam.

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  16. A memory captured in your heart in in a poem. I know the treasure chest of memories is packed Samuel and each one you recall is timeless


    Appreciate you!!!

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  17. A living memory simple but with emotional power

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  18. Samuel, what can I say? Everything they said. lol

    This transports me to a simpler time. When my world was just so. :')

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  19. back to read again and egg you on. love your work, Sam. xxxj

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  20. Very warm/nostalgic feeling I get here reading this. Beautiful flow.

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  21. Such a lovely memory Sam ~ The opening to the ending lines are beautifully penned ~

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  22. Oh this is so beautiful, one to read over and over again.

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  23. There's something so very lovely in the close on this one Samuel, between the lamplight and the window. And a sense of adoration for the mother figure that I can connect with for sure.

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  24. Breathtaking Sam. There is a universal human connection here, because these feelings will be recreated in one way or another for so may people. That feeling of wanting to please, of love, of connection and affection- the brilliant thing here is how you conjure these feelings without being at all literal abut it, you just accurately and delicately play out the narrative with poetic precision. So good

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  25. Sam, what you have captured here in each lovingly-penned detail, is perfection. You have written down love.

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  26. Sam, you pulled us by our heartstrings right back into maple leaf legacy. My mother has been Muse for me countless times; lost her early, making the recall more intense & poignant. Your last stanza is the money lines; loved it for sure.

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  27. Sweet. Loved this! Cooking n shopping n surprising!

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  28. O yes. Slow built, little hints of disappointment until the unveiling when Mother is Wonderful--I remember this well. I enjoy the narrative perspective very much.

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  29. ..beautiful memories & adoration to such a wonderful woman... Mom celebrated her 50th birthday last december...few days before the event i was in a big trouble for i have no idea what to buy and make a present to her...i ended up having nothing to give at all instead i gave her a hug & a kiss....and she was crying...for she knew i don't normally do that...thanks for the poem sir...smiles...

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  30. ...I can see why this received such accolades..and for boys to suddenly see life unfold like this, of course it ia going to push them into growing up in a giant leap..the setting and poem are lovely, can't think of better word.

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  31. oh and i bet it meant the world to her, even though it wasn't what she wanted but she knew you gave it from the depths of your heart... a wonderful warm-hearted story sam

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  32. Yes, I think mothers know the meaning of gratitude and love. Your story is so tender. I loved reading it.

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  33. is the made up guitar an air guitar? that's what i pictured.

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  34. Lovely. The wonderful thing about moms is that they love whatever you might give them, not because it's something they may or may not have wanted. It's not the item, but the person that gave it to them, this child that they love with all their hearts. The child's love alone is the gift, anything else secondary.
    Nice story Samuel, well penned.

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  35. Oh how beautiful...mothers can make a gift to them a priceless treasure because it is when given from the heart of a child.

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  36. it is a kind of gift back to see someone treasure something to their cheek. makes you feel that youve found something they can enjoy. lovely poem.

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  37. I really like the meaning of this poem. Love grows and feeds on small things, but we have to have the mindset to accept these little things in our hearts, for many it is not easy to open the mind and the heart to love. Congratulations Samuel.

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  38. This is what Carol Ann Duffy means when she says poetry should be for everyone. We all have this kind of precious memory - but few of us have the ability either to record our own like this, or to bring other's memories out from the dark, forgotten recesses of the mind. I wonder what effect poem this might have on people whose memories are deteriorating? Might it help to bring some memories to mind, in the same way that songs, smells and familiar stories being read out loud can?

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  39. "Oh!" she said. "Oh!" -
    that is what i am saying too after reading these lovely words..

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  40. This is great. Very visual. Love the use of senses, the sights and sounds and smells.

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