Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: Mom Gets In One of My Poems

Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

Through the tender conversation of today’s poem Martin Steingesser, Portland’s first poet laureate, reveals two mothers, one from the present, the other from the past.

Mom Gets In One of My Poems by Martin Steingesser

“I thought I missed you, darling,” she is saying on the phone.
“No, you woke me. It’s 7:30.”
“Oh—” she says, and then,
after a pause, “I didn’t want to miss you.”
How she won’t be denied, how
I resist. Ninety-two, she’s the kind
of goodness brings trouble, the powerful
voice calling me in
                              evenings when I was a boy.
Maybe now it’s her way
                                      to know she is okay.
Yesterday she called four times
for help with the date, days of the week
refusing to stay in their places.
“It’s Saturday,” she says, a questioning in her voice, adding,
“I’m so confused, it’s embarrassing.”
I can see her calendar: she’s crossed off Friday
and forgotten, now maybe Saturday, too.
“I’m sorry, I cause so much trouble,” she says, starting to cry.
“It’s okay, Ma, I mix up days, too.
                                                  Last week,” I tell her,
“I drove to the wrong job.”
                                                   Suddenly she laughs,
and I know it’s okay, for the moment
neither hearing the powerful voice.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2002 by Martin Steingesser. Reprinted from “Brothers of Morning,” Deerbrook Editions, 2002, by permission of Martin Steingesser. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to David Turner, Special Assistant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at poetlaureate@mainewriters.org or 207-228-8263.