Poet Puts Pain Of Losing A Mother Into Words

Tell Me More commemorates National Poetry Month with a celebration of poetry.

Author and poet Hope Anita Smith talks about her new collection of work, Mother Poems, and reads from her writings about the heartbreaking experience of losing a mother.

Excerpt: 'Mother Poems'

By Hope Anita Smith

Hope Anita Smith and her Mom i i

hide captionPoet Hope Anita Smith, pictured as a child, with her late mother Nedroe Lee Crews.

Macmillan Children's Publishing Group
Hope Anita Smith and her Mom

Poet Hope Anita Smith, pictured as a child, with her late mother Nedroe Lee Crews.

Macmillan Children's Publishing Group

MOMMA

I've got a momma
who combs and plaits my hair
with gentle soothing rhythms,
fingers dancing everywhere.

I've got a momma
who wraps me in her arms
like I'm some kind of present,
says I'm her lucky charm.

I've got a momma
who loves me through and through,
and can't nobody love me
like my momma do.

DUPED

Everybody talks about
Death.
The thief who takes away people you love.
Kidnaps them.
Grabs them from their beds as they sleep.

Sometimes he waves wildly,
yells a big hello.
As if you know he's coming.
As if you sent him an invitation.

And sometimes he seems to
hurl himself through space and
(like Dorothy's house in the Wizard of Oz)
lands with a thud on some
unsuspecting someone.
And then they are gone.

But occasionally,
he sneaks up on you,
taps you on your right shoulder
and when you turn to look,
he reaches over your left
and takes your mother.

It was the oldest trick in the book
I can't believe I fell for it.

CONSTRUCTING TREES

I could feel it coming.
Like wild horses galloping toward water,
I could feel Christmas coming to me.
My mom and I would bring it
up from the basement.
Ornaments, holiday decorations and
our tree,
laying dead in its coffin,
its epitaph on the lid.
No "R.I.P." here;
instead
"A.R.,"
"Assembly Required."
We grew our tree,
my mother and I,
from the base to the tree topper.
We raised the tallest pole, and I held it
with two hands
while my mother wrestled
the green-tipped branches
into the green ring around the base
and then we worked our way up.
matching the color tips to the ring colors
around the pole:
red, yellow, blue, black, brown, orange, white
and another color that had long since disappeared.
If we counted the rings,
our tree was nine years old.
It took some time, making a tree.
Every year, it got a little harder.
The colors became fainter.
But we didn't care.
I marveled that we were doing a thing
only God could do.
We were making a tree,
We dressed it in colored lights, ornaments and silver strands of tinsel.
When we were through,
we would stand back and admire it.
And right before our eyes,
like Gepetto's Pinochio,
it became real.

I build trees all the time now.
Memory trees.
I start at the base,
my earliest memory,
and work my way up
Hang moments with my mom in my mind.
Some of them real, some imagined.
All of them shining.

Copyright 2009 by Hope Anita Smith. All rights reserved.

Books Featured In This Story

Mother Poems
Mother Poems

by Hope Anita Smith

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