SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: MOTHERHOOD POETRY


"Arab Motherhood" by Georges Sabbagh, c. 1920. Public domain image.

“Arab Motherhood” by Georges Sabbagh, c. 1920. Public domain image.



Editor’s Note: In honor of Mother’s Day, I have gathered together some of my favorite poems that I’ve featured on this series over the years that consider motherhood from a plethora of perspectives, for motherhood is such a multi-faceted experience. From the perspective of the child: memories of mothers, good mothers, bad mothers, absent mothers, mothers we have lost. From the perspective of the mother, of the would-be-mother, of the once-was mother: pregnancy and childbirth, love and fear of and for our children, the kind of mother we are or are not, the kind of mother we want to be, the children we never had, the children we have lost.

Today’s selection is in honor of motherhood itself and its many faces, in honor of that imperative person without whom none of us would exist and who–for better or worse–so deeply affects who we come to be.

Today’s post is dedicated to my own mother, who has always been one of my most dedicated readers and faithful supporters, who has shaped my being from zygote through womanhood, and whose legacy as mother takes on its newest incarnation on this, my first Mother’s Day as a mother.


Mother, I’m trying
to write
a poem to you

which is how most
poems to mothers must
begin—or, What I’ve wanted
to say, Mother
…but we
as children of mothers,
even when mothers ourselves,

cannot bear our poems
to them.

–Erin Belieu,
“Another Poem for Mothers”



MOTHERHOOD POETRY
FROM THE SATURDAY POETRY SERIES ARCHIVES:

“Elegy for a Mother, Still Living” by Elana Bell

“Cultiver Son Potager / Growing Vegetables” by Dara Barnat; translated by Sabine Huynh

“Prayers Like Shoes” by Ruth Forman

“We Speak of August” by Valentina Gnup

State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies by Alexis Rhone Fancher

“A Poem for Women Who Don’t Want Children” by Chanel Brenner

“Baby” by Jaimie Gusman

“Psalm to Be Read While My Daughter Considers Mary” by Nicole Rollender

Hemisphere by Ellen Hagan

“Labor Pantoum” by Leslie Contreras Schwartz

“Depression” by Terri Kirby Erickson

“Dinner for the Dying” by Jen Lambert

Decency by Marcela Sulak

Little Spells by Jennifer K. Sweeney

“The Invention of Amniocentesis” by Jen Karetnick

“The Sadness of Young Mothers” by Richard D’Abate

“Mom’s Cocks” by Jenna Le

“The Balance” by Danusha Laméris

“The Committee Weighs In” by Andrea Cohen

“Mother-In-Law” by Nicole Stellon O’Donnell

“Change of Address” by Ruth Deborah Rey



Want to read more Mother’s Day poems?
Mother’s Day poetry from the Academy of American Poets
Poetry about mothers from the Academy of American Poets

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THE MOONS OF AUGUST

Lameris Cover-1


FROM THE MOONS OF AUGUST
By Danusha Laméris


EVE, AFTER

Did she know
there was more to life
than lions licking the furred
ears of lambs,
fruit trees dropping
their fat bounty,
the years droning on
without argument?

Too much quiet
is never a good sign.
Isn’t there always
something itching
beneath the surface?

But what could she say?
The larder was full
and they were beautiful,
their bodies new
as the day they were made.

Each morning the same
flowers broke through
the rich soil, the birds sang,
again, in perfect pitch.

It was only at night
when they lay together in the dark
that it was almost palpable—
the vague sadness, unnamed.

Foolishness, betrayal,
—call it what you will. What a relief
to feel the weight
fall into her palm. And after,
not to pretend anymore
that the terrible calm
was Paradise.



LONE WOLF

On December 8, 2011, the first wolf in nearly a hundred years was seen
crossing the border of the Sierra Nevada from Oregon to California.

A male, probably looking for a mate
in this high wilderness
along the cusp of Mount Shasta.
Already there are ranchers waiting, armed.
True, it’s only one wolf.
Except that a wolf is never just a wolf.
We say “wolf” but mean our own hunger,
walking around outside our bodies.
The thief desire is. the part of wanting
we want to forget but can’t. Not
with the wolf loose in the woods
carrying the thick fur
of our longing. Not with it taking
in its mouth the flocks we keep
penned behind barbed wire.
If only we didn’t have to hear it
out in the dark, howling.



THE BALANCE

She was at a friend’s apartment,
my mother, a third floor walk-up.
It was summer. Why she slipped
into the back room, she can’t recall.
Was there something she wanted
fro her purse…lipstick?
a phone number?
Fumbling through the pile
on the bed she looked up and saw—
was this possible?—outside,
on the thin concrete ledge
a child, a girl, no more than two or three.
She was crouched down
eyeing an object with great interest.
A pebble, or a bright coin.
What happened next
must have happened very slowly.
My mother, who was young then,
leaned out the window, smiled.
Would you like to see
what’s in my purse?
she asked.
Below, traffic rushed
down the wide street, horns blaring.
Students ambled home
under the weight of their backpacks.
From the next room,
strains of laughter.
The child smiled back, toddled along
the ledge. What do we know
of fate or chance, the threads
that hold us in the balance?
My mother did not imagine
one day she would
lose her own son, helpless
to stop the bullet
he aimed at his heart.
She reached out to the girl,
grabbed her in both arms,
held her to her chest.



Today’s poems are from The Moons of August, published by Autumn House Press, copyright © 2014 by Danusha Laméris, and appear here today with permission from the poet.


The Moons of August: “Danusha Laméris writes with definitive, savoring power—in perfectly well-weighted lines and scenes. Her poems strike deeply, balancing profound loss and new finding, employing a clear eye, a way of being richly alive with appetite and gusto, and a gift of distilling experience to find its shining core. Don’t miss this stunning first book.” —Naomi Shihab Nye

“This book of motherhood, memory, and elegiac urgency crosses borders, cultures, and languages to bring us the good news of being alive. With language clear as water and rich as blood, The Moons of August offers a human communion we can all believe in. Reckoning with and grieving for the past as they claim the future, these poems are wise, direct, and fearless. “What’s gone / is not quite gone, but lingers,” Laméris reminds us. “Not the language, but the bones / of the language. Not the beloved, / but the dark bed the beloved makes / inside our bodies.” —Dorianne Laux


Danusha Laméris’s work has been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Poetry Northwest, Rattle, The Sun and Crab Orchard Review as well as in a variety of other journals. Her poems have also appeared in the anthologies In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare, A Bird Black as the Sun: California Poets on Crows and Ravens, and Intimate Kisses. She was a finalist for the 2010 and 2012 New Letters Prize in poetry and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poem, “Riding Bareback,” won the 2013 Morton Marcus Memorial prize in poetry, selected by Gary Young and her first book, The Moons of August, was chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the Autumn House Press poetry contest. She lives in Santa Cruz, California and teaches an ongoing poetry workshop.


Editor’s Note: I first discovered Danusha Laméris when I featured her stunning poem “Arabic” in the fall of 2013. When I read that her first book was forthcoming this year—and chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the Autumn House Press poetry contest, no less—I begged the poet remember me when the book was released. When it arrived I read, devoured, re-read, explored, breathed, bled, and grew whole once more within the boundless confines of its pages.

Through Laméris’ words I was the first woman born; I knew the burden—and relief—of being Eve. I was as old as time and as all-encompassing as nature. I was as helpless and as grieved as a mother, and as powerful. The Moons of August is small and light and fits effortlessly in my hands. Yet it reaches far back to human origins and delves deep into the human experience and the complex soul of (wo)man. “With,” as Dorianne Laux so aptly states, “language clear as water and rich as blood,” this is a book to read when you want to feel alive, from the very atoms that comprise you to the farthest reaches of your white light.


Want to see more by Danusha Laméris?
Author’s Official Website

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: DANUSHA LAMÉRIS

Author Web Photo
ARABIC
By Danusha Laméris

I don’t remember the sounds
rising from below my breastbone
though I spoke that golden language
with the girls of Beirut, playing hopscotch
on the hot asphalt. We called out to our mothers
for lemonade, and when the men
walking home from work stooped down,
slipped us coins for candy, we thanked them.
At the market, I understood the bargaining
of the butcher, the vendors of fig and bread.
In Arabic, I whispered into the tufted ears
of a donkey, professing my love. And in Arabic
I sang at school, or dreamt at night.
There is an Arab saying,
Sad are only those who understand.
What did I know then of the endless trail
of losses? In the years that have passed,
I’ve buried a lover, a brother, a son.
At night, the low drumroll
of bombs eroded the edges of the city.
The girls? Who knows what has been taken
from them.

For a brief season I woke
to a man who would whisper to me
in Arabic, then tap the valley of my sternum,
ask me to repeat each word,
coaxing the rusty syllables from my throat.
See, he said, they’re still here.
Though even that memory is faint.
And maybe he was right. What’s gone
is not quite gone, but lingers.
Not the language, but the bones
of the language. Not the beloved,
but the dark bed the beloved makes
inside our bodies.


(Today’s poem originally appeared in Rattle and appears here today with permission from the poet.)

Danusha Laméris’s work has been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Poetry Northwest, Rattle, The Sun and Crab Orchard Review as well as in a variety of other journals. She was a finalist for the 2010 and 2012 New Letters Prize in poetry and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize four times. Her first book, The Moons of August, was chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the Autumn House Press poetry contest, and is set for release in early 2014. She lives in Santa Cruz, California and teaches an ongoing poetry workshop.

Editor’s Note: What riches lie within today’s poem. How alive the market of the poet’s memory. Reading this piece is like walking through a souq; the corridors are buzzing and vibrant, but be aware. Keep your eyes wide open. In the caverns below the language lie both treasures and warnings. Both the language and the bones.

Want to read more by and about Danusha Laméris?
Author’s Official Website