Monday, March 13, 2006

Mother's birthday

Today would've been my mother's birthday. She died ten years ago. The first couple of birthdays gave me anniversary reactions, but now , while yes I miss her terribly, the day doesn't bring sadness--only good memories.

In her youth, mother was likened to Greta Garbo and was voted Most Attractive in her senior college year. This scan of a framed photo of her shows why. And no, I didn't take after her:-) Can you imagine being the scraggly tombody daugher of a beautiful women who also taught first grade in our small southern town. All of my friends thought of her as their second mother. They simply fell in love with her. I love her, too.

I wrote the following poem about her eight years after her death:

Lilies And Headstones

Mother climbs from her grave nightly,
the moon sliding, bone white, along that
fragile passage from day's end to beginning.
She re-arranges plastic flowers, talks
to other coffin-freed friends, polishes
the naked cross guarding the faithful dead.

Lilies once bordered the shrubs
surrounding our house like a moat.
White ones. Yellow ones. Striated ones.
Soft scented sentinels poking their heads
up through the warm soil each Spring.
My mother's pride.

Fake carnations grace her headstone now.
Stiff, like the bodies lined in neat rows
beneath her; cold like her own body
which will never again climb into a warm bed
or scatter the crows that yet steal
from our abandoned cherry tree.

They suck the fruit cheerfully, despite
old clattering pans, and one rotten scarecrow
with eyes picked as empty as the spaces
where lilies once danced with the wind.

Pris Campbell

This poem took second in the December 2004 IBPC

Comments from the judge:

How could one not read the first line of this poem and not want to read the next? “Lilies and Headstones” had me from the beginning, and took me places I never expected. The poem could’ve easily slipped into sentimentality, the poet telling us how they feel instead of showing us that marvelous scarecrow at the end, eyes picked empty. --David Hernandez


Lee Herrick said...

what a beautiful woman! and your poem, pris, is equally striking. hernandez is right on the money w/ his comments! i'm glad i listened to some of your work on the poscasts---now when i read your work i can imagine you reading it.

Ellen M Johns said...

Yes, she is naturally beautiful in my opinion. She has perfect, rosebud lips and a serene grace about her.
The poem is equally beautiful Pris.

Pris said...

Thank you both!

Michael Parker said...

Pris, your mother is beautiful. And your poem is exceptional. I too agree with David Hernandez' review--your first line is magnificent, makes you want to move on. It really is one of the most striking first lines I think I've read. This deserved the honor it received.

Pris said...

Michael thank you. you always encourage me.

Berenice said...

Your mum is truly beautiful Pris. A wistful beauty.

Pat Paulk said...

Your mother is absolutely beautiful! This poem is one of the best I've ever read. Thanks for posting it!

Pris said...

Pat, thank you so very much!