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In Honor Of Mothers, Daughters, and Writers: A Poem

My post last week about the birth control pill performed double-duty as a Mother’s Day tribute. I hadn’t intended it to do so,...

My post last week about the birth control pill performed double-duty as a Mother’s Day tribute. I hadn’t intended it to do so, that’s just how things worked out given the 50th anniversary of the pill and all of the hullabaloo around that.

The Mother’s Day post that I intended to put up is the one I’m going to post today – a few day’s late, to be sure – but I’m going to blame my move (and the British government…or lack thereof.*)

From time to time I post poetry on this blog. Usually it’s not my own (except my recent ode to a mews house.) Instead, I look to the more inspired words of others to express what I wish I was eloquent enough to say on my own. I did it on my father’s birthday last year, I did it when some friends were going through some rocky times, and today, I’m going to do it again, with a poem that celebrates mothers, daughters and writers.

It was actually my mother who sent me this poem. She did it back in November when I took a self-imposed vacation in order to spend some time sending my novel out to agents.

My mother is a writer. She’s written plays, children’s stories and – most recently – a terrific family history. She’s also become a tireless commenter on this blog, for which I am most grateful.  Most of what I know about writing I learned from her.

As writers (and daughters), we all need support like that. So today’s poem goes out to mothers, daughters and writers everywhere in equal measure.

The Writer

by Richard Wilbur


In her room at the prow of the house

Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,

My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing

From her shut door a commotion of typewriter keys

Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff

Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy.

I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,

As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.

A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,

And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor

Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling

Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;

How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;

And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,

We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature

Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove

To the hard floor, or the desk top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,

For the wits to try it again, and how our spirits

Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,

Beating a smooth course for the right window

And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,

Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish

What I wished you before, but harder.

Happy Mother’s Day.

*For those of you who haven’t – by some miracle of modern science – been following the British elections, I’ve had my hands full with that roller coaster of events over the past few days. You can read some of my thoughts here (written the day after election day), here (written when it looked like the Lib Dems and the Tories would form an alliance) and here (when it looked like the Lib Dems might ally with Labour.) By the time you read this, we’ll probably be on Plan C…stay tuned.

Image: Red-winged Starling by Ifijay via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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  1. Cecilia May 11, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    It’s lovely. I also think it’s wonderful that your mother is a writer. Words to me are the best legacy a parent can pass down to his/her children.

  2. Daryl Boylan May 12, 2010 at 12:36 am #

    Richard Wilbur is one excellent poet!
    As to your PD election coverage, well & truly done. I agree that those trying to use the Tories sort-of win as a forecaster of the next US election are on very shaky ground. As an elderly & inept poker player, I’m fascinated to know which cards Mr. Clegg & the Lib-Dems will play in which round of the game.

  3. Lindsey May 12, 2010 at 8:06 pm #

    I adore this poem … really love it. My sister had it read at her first daughter’s christening and it’s always stayed with me. Thank you for sharing it!

  4. delialloyd May 12, 2010 at 8:17 pm #

    I do too, Lindsey. It gives me a a slight chill when I read it. Thx for visiting!

  5. Kristen @ Motherese May 12, 2010 at 9:32 pm #

    I did not know this poem, and am so grateful to you for sharing it. It stirs my motherly-daughterly-writerly soul.

    Thanks, Delia.

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