Letting in My Mother

I sat with her at lunch.
We talked.
I asked the right questions.

I love the simplicity of these statements; the reader can sense that they are honest. -Patricia Schlutt, age 18

She said she didn’t love my father
until after I was born.
She weighed 106 soaking wet,
still had her figure at age 43.
What is love?

What a great opening stanza! It is certainly strange and deeply personal to examine the marriages of our parents, to think “Why did they get married,” or “Do they still love each other the same after all these years?” What is love really? It’s a large question with many answers and implications. -Kyle Austin, age 24

 
She wouldn’t tell me.
Have to figure it out by accident.
Hold the ball until you can’t stand it any more.
Take a bus and say no thank you, anyway.
Buy a cowboy hat and dream.
Or visit a pawn shop somewhere in Oklahoma
for wedding bands and talk about Elvis.
And let it make sense to you.
Let it make sense to you.

This line really speaks to the nature of “love” that the narrator is trying to discover. It is different for every person, so it must only make sense to oneself. The narrator seems to be realizing why her mother wouldn't tell her what love is. -Sarah Branz, age 21

And she told me she still thought
about could-have-beens: that man
in the photo she carried in the back
of her wallet until she gave it to me
a day before her coma, four
days before she died. No one
else will understand this part of me.

Love that she mentions “could-have-beens” here. Life is hard not least of all because we carry the weight of the past, present, and future with us at all times. -Kyle Austin, age 24

 
He glowed when he walked
into Uncle Pete’s house on Oliver Street.
She was in love but moved away for summer.
He showed up on an Indian motorcycle
at the corner by Beulah Drug

Wow—Beulah Drug is an awesome detail! Beulah is a Hebrew word that has been translated as “married,” so it fits. The contrast of the spiritual “Beulah” and the very common and unexciting “Drug,” without even “store” attached to it unites the spiritual and the mundane for the rest of the poem. -Patricia Schlutt, age 18

the night of my parents’ first date.
She told him to leave—
something about propriety.
He got a room at the Crystal Hotel.
Aunt Gladys gave him maids’ rates.
In the morning
my mother went to his room
but he was gone.
She lay on the bed trying to smell him
for more than two hours.

To me, the most powerful line in this poem is “she lay on the bed trying to smell him/ for more than two hours.” It is almost heartbreaking in how it conveys her hopeless attachment for a man she cannot have and will always think back on later in life. -Laura Crouch, age 20

 
Uncle Pete died in l969.
I remember.
I tried to blow the candles out
at the funeral in the church.
Perhaps it was a party for a child.

This is a beautiful depiction of a funeral through a child's eyes. It also has striking contrast—to be at a funeral and think it’s perhaps a party. -Sarah Branz, age 21

The sight of that man made my mother
run out of the room.
She said she couldn’t breathe,
didn’t want a businessman to know
she’d settled for a dumb farmer.
My father wasn’t stupid.
He must have known she was ashamed.
He made the man laugh and
they talked about the war.
 
I wore a blue dress and pounded on the door.
She stayed in the bathroom where
there was a scale that told her
fortune for a quarter.

The consistent punctuation gives the poem a clipped quality, which helps express the trapped feeling that the speaker’s mother experiences in several moments in her life, the difficulty of sharing these feelings with her daughter, and perhaps, the difficulty her daughter has in accepting this part of her mother—seeing her mother as a flawed human being, not an infallible idol. -Kara Madden, age 24
It can be hard for children to imagine their parents having lives of their own before starting a family, but this poem brings a mother’s former life into view, a part of her that she mostly keeps hidden but is nonetheless a significant part of the person she is. -Laura Crouch, age 20
Through the 3rd Eye was supported in its inception by the Grand Rapids Humanities Council and is currently made possible by continued volunteer effort and private support. Copyright 2013.