Feb. 15, 2008

Sestina for the Working Mother

by Deborah Garrison

No time for a sestina for the working mother.
Who has so much to do, from first thing in the morning
When she has to get herself dressed and the children
Too, when they tumble in the pillow pile rather than listening
To her exhortations about brushing teeth, making ready for the day;
They clamor with "up" hugs when she struggles out the door.

Every time, as if shot from a cannon when she shuts the door.
She stomps down the street in her city boots, slipping from mother
Mode into commuter trance, trees swaying at the corner of a new day
Nearly turned, her familiar bus stop cool and welcoming in the morning.
She hears her own heart here, though no one else is listening,
And if the bus is late she hears down the block the voices of her children

Bobbing under their oversized backpacks to greet other children
At their own bus stop. They too have come flying from the door,
Brave for the journey, and everyone is talking and no one is listening
As they head off to school. The noisy children of the working mother,
Waiting with their sitter for the bus, are healthy and happy this morning.
And that's the best way, the mother knows, for a day

To begin. The apprehension of what kind of day
It will be in the world of work, blissful without children,
Trembles in the anxious and pleasurable pulse of the morning;
It has tamped her down tight and lit her out the door
And away from what she might have been as a mother
At home, perhaps drinking coffee and listening

To NPR, what rapt and intelligent listening
She'd do at home. And volunteering, she thinks, for part of the day
At their school-she'd be a playground monitor, a PTA mother!
She'd see them straggle into the sunshine, her children
Bright in the slipstream, and she a gracious shadow at the school door;
She would not be separated from them for long by the morning.

But she has chosen her flight from them, on this and every morning.
She's now so far away she trusts someone else is listening
To their raised voices, applying a Band-Aid, opening the door
For them when the sunshine calls them out into the day.
At certain moments, head bent at her desk, she can see her children,
And feels a quick stab. She hasn't forgotten that she is their mother.

Every weekday morning, every working day,
She listens to her heart and the voices of her children.
Goodbye! they shout, and the door closes behind the working mother.

"Sestina for the Working Mother" by Deborah Garrison, from The Second Child: Poems. © Random House, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of women's rights activist Susan B. Anthony, born in Adams, Massachusetts (1820). Anthony and her friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton led the women's suffrage movement in the U.S. in the late 1800s. From 1892 to 1900, Anthony acted as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

It is the birthday of comic book artist and graphic novelist Art Spiegelman, (books by this author) born in 1948 in Stockholm, Sweden. Spiegelman is best known for his graphic novel Maus: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History and its follow-up, Maus: A Survivor's Tale II: and Here My Troubles Began. These books tell the story of Spiegelman's parents, who were Holocaust survivors. The books are considered to be the crowning achievement of the graphic novel genre — Maus II even won a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992. Critics praise the books for both their unique approach to the Holocaust and their radical treatment of the comic book form. Other artists have followed in Spiegelman's footsteps, and the graphic novel genre is now accepted as a valid literary form. In an interview with, Spiegelman was asked what it is about comics that satisfies him. He replied, "Comics are a narrative art form, a form that combines two other forms of expression: words and pictures ... in the hands of someone who knows their medium, great things can happen. Good comics make an impression that lasts forever."

It is the birthday of the popular Internet Web site YouTube (the domain name was registered on February 15, 2005). In its few short years in existence, YouTube has become a cultural phenomenon. It is the Internet's fourth most popular Web site, and it receives millions of visitors a day. One of the results of YouTube is that ordinary people now have a chance at fame (or infamy). Time magazine's 2006 Person of the Year was You, partly due to the rise of YouTube.

On this date in 399 B.C.E., the Greek philosopher Socrates was sentenced to death. He was accused of religious heresies and corrupting youth, and he was sentenced to die by consuming poison (most likely hemlock).

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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