Last week, I browsed through a back issue of the Notre Dame Review (#17, winter '04) and flagged two poems for re-reading. Both, interestingly enough, are about mothers. Each stood out, as far as I'm concerned, from everything else in the magazine.
Here you go:
Take the concentration intricate
work requires—a needle, embroidery. The in
and out through the eye, thread and
fabric pulled. Or the cautious
hands of my mother, webbing yarn
into a sweater, the genius
click of her needles. It’s enough
to make me jealous of that kind
of patience. When I took the box of give-
away stuff to the garage
I found swatches of crepe and a lace
tablecloth discolored by
wine, as if a dinner party had
decided to throw their bad manners out
in the open, leave their spoils. The luxury
of this fabric, its airy matter.
I’d like to tailor it, get it down
in a form myself. All you need
is a pattern, she’d tell me. No,
I thought, pawing my scissors,
one snag is all it takes,
: Emily Rosko
* * *
My Mother and Your Mother
My mother and your mother making tea in heaven—no, not heaven, but that place you go to live after you die and have acquired certain skills.
Your mother wants to take my mother to the PX and stock up on Folgers coffee, Ritz crackers and a couple cases of gin. My mother wants to go to the new senior center because she read in the paper they’ll be showing a movie with Mario Lanza. Finally they settle on Italy where your mother was happy for awhile.
Your mother shows my mother the apartment where she lived, the echoing courtyard, and in between the same flapping laundry still hanging on the line, the volcano. After a couple of cappuccinos on the Via Manzoni, your mother agrees, out of her Southern courtesy, to go with my mother to Mexico.
Today is the day she’ll relive being the small girl in the white dress that hands Porfirio Díaz a bouquet of flowers. Overcome with joy, El Presidente announces that he won’t run for office ever again. Viva! Hats and bullets fly through the air and my mother takes credit for starting the Mexican Revolution.
Your mother wants to go home to Charleston and eat some chess pie made out of eggs, brown sugar and butter. Mine wants to eat those hotcakes again she had the first time she crossed the border and thought, What strange tortillas these Gringos eat. As a compromise, they come to see how we’re doing in L.A.
But once here they forget why they came. My mother and your mother, on Olvera St. trying on straw hats. Your mother and my mother at the counter in Bloomingdale’s, spraying Chanel No. 5 on their wrists.
My mother and your mother at Musso and Frank’s. Your mother is deep into her peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream. Mine is table hopping, collecting autographs. She can’t believe her luck, there’s Gilbert Roland having a martini with Dolores Del Rio.
: Richard Garcia
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