Friday, October 28, 2005


As we tackle motherhood ourselves, we realize the multitude of things we've learned from our own mothers, whether through direct teaching or by osmosis. What power we have as mothers! And we don't stop learning from them, ever, even when they are far away from us or in the grave. This is one of several poems I've written about things I've learned from my mother.


Her first machine was a Singer
she had to stand to work,
her five-year-old legs not long
enough to reach the pedal. Later
a Singer Slant-o-matic, ballpoint
needle all the rage, her grandmother
watching from the corner,
as you sew, so shall you rip.

Fingers hummed during dark hours
after milking cows and homework,
machine coughed out 4-H blue ribbons
while little girl’s legs grew long and lean.
Not many years later she married
my father in a gown she’d sewn herself,
the prettiest part of the day she tells me
now, six years into her third marriage
as we work together sewing beads
on another gown for someone
else’s wedding. May they

be happy, my mother says,
her still-nimble fingers turning
a needle with dazzling speed
and precision, her words nothing
like the fragile lace we’re working,
white satin with a red edge
of her own creation. I know
this is not how she expected
her life to be. She checks over
my handiwork, notices a flaw
in the seam, and next thing
I know, she’s handing me the ripper.

- Irene Latham


Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

I just love this poem - I shared it with my coteacher today and we laughed out loud at "as you sew, so shall you rip." It works on two levels - while learning practical skills from generation to generation - we learn that life is what it is. We also feel the judgment of our flaws from our mothers - intentionally or not. I wish I had a ripper to undo mine!
Lovely . . .

5:23 PM, October 28, 2005  

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