Sometimes poems appear like rare butterflies; you have to swiftly capture them or they fly away again. A poet friend of mine has been known – in the absence of a notebook – to ‘catch’ a poem on the back of a cornflake packet. I am lucky to have had this experience myself; an idea comes into my head and flows via the pen or keyboard into a first draft of a poem on the page. It is hard not be pleased with yourself when you create something that didn’t exist before – especially if it contains an original idea. First drafts are often the most fun to write, with the highest reward-to-effort ratio. But then comes revision.
Grave lilies long dead
but the irises still bloom
in my May garden
Today is Mother’s Day in Ireland. I no longer live in Ireland, nor is my mother still alive, but I remember her today, as I do most days.
I remember your hands busy, busy,
with Tupperware boxes in pastel shades,
or softly pushing back my fringe
for a good-night kiss on your way to a play.
The waft of Chanel from your calming arms,
my fingers lost in the fur of your coat,
the nightlight catching your bracelet’s charms,
‘That will be yours whenever I go.’
I plucked a fleck of lint
from your grey lapel
in a polite sort of way
that day in my office.
Resolution # 1 was to write more. When I made it, I realised it could only be accomplished by resolution #2. I doubt that there has been a woman who lay on her deathbed wishing she had done more about the house. My mother certainly didn’t wish she had, and she would know; she made a career of it. So if this was to be the year I would spend less time doing chores, the problem was, how?
Love set you going like a fat gold watch…
So begins Sylvia Plath’s poem Morning Song, written in 1961 as a tribute to her baby daughter, Frieda. Read the whole poem here. What a fabulous gift from mother to child? It takes me back to the joy I felt the day I brought my first baby daughter home from hospital. I could hardly believe that they let us leave with her. So tiny and pink with hands like miniature starfish waving their fronds.