My Mother Was Steadily Bending

While I was busy with other things
for 18 years or 21 or 36,
my mother was steadily bending

like the stem of a tulip

toward whatever source of light
she could find
and still remain in her vase.



Prompts: NaPoWriMo (a flower), Imaginary Garden with Real Toads (women, women’s rights, women’s freedom), and Poetic Asides (a doodle — if you’re curious, ask me in the comments and I’ll tell you how I think this qualifies).


18 thoughts on “My Mother Was Steadily Bending

  1. Kerry O'Connor says:

    How long does it take for daughters to recognize the humanity in their mothers, I often wonder. This is a striking image and strong message.

    • Thank you! It takes a long time. 🙂 I went through so many phases in my understanding of my mother, who was brilliant — and a writer — and who was not fully able to make use of all of that because of certain limitations … but those very limitations benefited me directly, and to some extent, she chose them. What to do with all of that? And she died when I was 36 and right in the heat of raising young children. I feel like quiet, mutual acceptance would have arrived if she’d lived until I was just a bit further into midlife and seeing how my own choices worked out, or didn’t.

  2. It ABSOLUTELY “qualifies”. It takes strength to keep looking for the light as we are bending. The stark simplicity of this message is powerful and will stay with me a long time. I can SEE her. Oh, I am so sorry to read above that she died while you were still so young. Yes, you will come to understand her more with each decade of life.

    • Thank you, Sherry! Soon after my mom died, my daughter entered kind of a bratty phase — she was 4 at the time — and I found myself saying some of the things my mom said to me when I was a child and that I swore I “never, ever” would. It was this immediate “Ohhh, now I get it.” As for life choices, such as why she didn’t pursue her talent to its fullest, I’ve had to realize that I’m not in her shoes, her time in history, etc. — so I absolutely can’t judge her and whether she chose “right” or “wrong.” Who knows how my own daughter will eventually judge me?

    • Thank you, Angie! If she was in a vase, it’s possible that I’m in one of those dish garden things — more free, but not without some constraints. And yes, always looking for the light. 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Debi! My mom wrote short stories as a young woman but jettisoned her dreams of New York City to marry my dad — and never quite found the secret to incorporating an artistic life into “life life.” She was proud of me even though she didn’t always “get” poetry, especially the more abstract kind. 🙂

  3. Beautiful and touching poem, the message in it is strong and important. It reminds me how, if that tulip had a wooden body, or a body of rock, or just about anything else – a mere one bend would break it and erode it. It is love, the flower of vibrant, fruitful life that makes the body bend and not break.

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