Day 2 of 30 of Global Poetry Writing Month and National Poetry Writing Month
It's Global Poetry Writing Month, so I am taking up the challenge of writing a poem a day for 30 days. Today's challenge: write poem about a family portrait.
As Mennonites, we didn't have many family portraits when I was a young girl growing up. This informal portrait (which looks quite formal, to be frank!) was taken because we are four generations of first-borns. It was taken in 1967 in the house of my great-grandfather. I am the newborn sitting in my great-grandfather's lap. Beside him is my grandfather. Beside him is my mother.
A young woman, a mother, sits on the couch
Arms plump with youth, fingers strong
From kneading bread
Nimble from the thimble
Of sewing thread
She wears a cape dress, which she covers with an apron.
All of her dresses are from the same pattern. So are her mother’s. So are her aunt's.
She does not own a pair of trousers. She has never seen a movie.
She has never flown on a plane. She has never cut
her long, dark hair, which is pinned back into a bun with bobby-pins.
She: daring to not give her daughters biblical names like Ruth or Mary, but
Exotic ones that no one in church has ever heard.
She: stitching pointed sleeves on her wedding dress -- risqué!
She: on the day of her marriage
summoning into the Pennsylvania reception hall
the heady scent of lilacs picked from flower bushes
from miles around Franklin County: white, lavender, deep purple.
The wedding guests swooned.
Beside her sits her father, arms crossed, and her grandfather
who holds me in his lap, his one hand, extended, bigger than my infant head.
First-born, all of them.
First-born, all of us.
What do we know of this mother's tiny rebellions, the light in her bright eyes?
What do we know of the dreams she forms over the garden,
the sewing machine, the steaming stove, the hot oven,
the clothes line?
What do we know of the prayers she whispers
While spreading the bed
With sheets she just brought in
From the fresh, spring air
That blew in from someplace far, far away?
© Kat Shamash April 2, 2016