"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”


“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


by Ruth Deborah Rey

If it is true that only
five hundred thousand
people died in the camps
and that the others,
the other Jews, that is,
moved away to Israel,
the States, or to the East,
I do not understand why
not even one of them
sent a change of address
to those they left behind;
the ones that still, even
today, weep over the
loss of them and the horror
they were subjected to
that – supposedly – is not true.
I wonder why, if she was one
of those who simply moved
to the East and did not die,
my Mother … why my Mother
never even sent me a pretty
postcard from where she
is living now.

(“Change of Address” was originally published in Raving Dove. This poem is reprinted here today with permission from the poet.)

Ruth Deborah Rey, born in Amsterdam in 1938, has from the time she was a little girl worked in radio, (later) television, publicity and the theatre, as an actress, broadcaster, entertainer, scriptwriter, translator and editor in the Netherlands, Canada, and the USA. Today, retired, she finally has the time to be a full-time writer and editor. She lives at the French Atlantic coast with her husband, two dogs, and five cats. Rey is recognized by the Dutch Foundation 1940-1945 as a participant in the Resistance during the German occupation.

Editor’s Note: When I asked Ms. Rey’s permission to publish today’s poem she said she was glad to let me publish it, “even though the poem is one of the saddest I ever wrote.” I think this response says a lot about the kind of person, and poet, that Ms. Rey is. Living a life touched by the Holocaust, some might succumb to darkness, and their poetry might be reflective of such. But Ms. Rey lives a life of light, and her writing outshines any darkness that has touched her. She is quoted as saying “I speak my soul. I write.” I am inspired by Ms. Rey’s optimism, her shining light, and the adept way in which she speaks her soul.

Want to read more by and about Ruth Deborah Rey?
The Blue Blog
Raving Dove
Author’s Den