Thursday, January 19, 2006


Thanks for the thought-provoking post yesterday, Irene, here is the poem that instantly leapt into my mind when I read
The Routine Things Around the House, although this one has a much different tone. What is it about these boys and their mamas?


A woman travels to Brazil for plastic
surgery and a face-lift. She is sixty
and has the usual desire to stay pretty.
Once she is healed she takes her new face
out on the streets of Rio. A young man
with a gun wants her money. Bang, she's dead.
The body is shipped back to New York,
but in the morgue there is a mix-up. The son
is sent for. He is told that his mother
is one of these ten different women.
Each has been shot. Such is modern life.
He studies them all but can't find her.
With her new face, she has become a stranger.
Maybe it's this one, maybe it's that one.
He looks at their breasts. Which ones nursed him?
He presses their hands to his cheek.
Which ones consoled him? He even tries
climbing into their laps to see which
feels more familiar but the coroner stops him.
Well, says the coroner, which is your mother?
They all are, says the young man, let me
take them as a package. The coroner hesitates,
then agrees. Actually it solves a lot of problems.
The young man has the ten women shipped home,
then cremates them all together. You've seen
how some people have a little urn on the mantle?
This man has a huge silver garbage can.
In the spring, he drags the garbage can
out to the garden and begins working the teeth,
the ash, the bits of bone into the soil.
Then he plants tomatoes. His mother loved tomatoes.
They grow straight from seed, so fast and big
that the young man is amazed. He takes the first
ten into the kitchen. In their roundness,
he sees his mother's breasts. In their smoothness,
he finds the consoling touch of her hands.
Mother, mother, he cries, and flings himself
on the tomatoes. Forget about the knife, the fork,
the pinch of salt. Try to imagine the filial
starvation, think of his ravenous kisses.

Stephen Dobyns


Blogger reniebob said...

Tone is so different in this poem -- all little-boy exaggeration fantastic. I think that's how the poet gets away with it -- sorta how yesterday's poet did but with the opposite approach. I think the thing we can take away from them both is as a poet you can sneak up on the reader and address what may be an uncomfortable topic if you pay very close attention to tone. Something to think about...

7:54 AM, January 19, 2006  
Blogger Rae Pater said...

this poem is quite brilliant. I read it through all the way thinking wow!

2:25 PM, January 19, 2006  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

This poem has staying power - at least with me - because it is so brazen. It has been a favorite of mine since college. It is so unbelievably believable. Good point about tone Irene - you can take a reader anywhere with it - like Sharon Olds does. I'm glad you like this one Rae - it's great when a poem wows.

6:40 PM, January 19, 2006  
Blogger camera shy said...


this is excellent

2:50 AM, January 20, 2006  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

It's settled then - this is the wow poem - thanks for stopping by "blog this."

7:12 AM, January 20, 2006  

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