20 April 2008

a mother's love

today at church our sunday school teacher talked about God's love. it soon became a discussion of how we cannot fully comprehend His amazing love for each of us. she then compared it to the complexities of a mother's love and how we gain a minuscule glimpse into understanding when we love a child as a mother does.

with mother's day coming up, i think of the plethora of painted clay pots, fruit loop necklaces, handprint tiles, bouquets of paper flowers stapled to plastic straw stems and potato printed canvas bags that will be wrapped with love and opened with delight. i think of my own mom and how we used to take her an annual breakfast in bed on mother's day. three months after the holiday this year my own birthing day will arrive. wherein i'll step over that threshold and become a mother myself.

i marvel at mothers. i was happy when my sunday school teacher opened up her macbook in the midst of her lesson and let us listen to the words of poet laureate, billy collins reciting his tribute to his mother, The Lanyard. i encourage you to listen to him reading it. if i learned anything in creative writing, there is nothing quite like listening to a poet read his own work. before you do, be sure you realize what a lanyard is before listening in. i picture it a bit like boondoggle.

click here to listen to billy collins.

The Lanyard

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the pale blue walls of this room,
bouncing from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past --
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sickroom,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift--not the archaic truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

- Billy Collins

for more of billy, go to npr.com


Alicia said...

What a wonderful poem - the depth of a mother's love really is incredible. And you're right, the type of lanyard that he's referring to is exactly the same as boondoggle, just a different name I guess. When I think about it, really what were you supposed to do with those woven plastic square strings?! I certainly made enough of them to last a lifetime and beyond...and I'm willing to bet that my Mom has probably sent them to another home!

Anonymous said...

thank you for posting that. his poetry is such a treasure and it was a real treat to hear such a wonderful poem from his own lips. thanks again.

love.boxes said...

beautiful writing Marta.. as usual! Love the poem too!

Travelin'Oma said...

The irony here is that it was probably enough to make his mother's day. Any creation by a child is a gift to the mom. You'll see.

AllisonK said...

It sounds like a beautiful lesson. LOVED this poem!

S. said...

My brother once gave my mom orange-haired toll earrings for her birthday, despite my gently trying to talk him out of it. She wore them to school and her students loved them. I think because the earrings told them that she was loved...

Anonymous said...

Great post, Min. What a wonderful poem. That definitely needs to go in my file! (Remind me about it in a few years, I sometimes forget about all that great stuff in my file).

KR said...

That poem really just touches the soul in so many ways :) Thank you for sharing it. i do love how it mirrors in many ways, God's love for us! :)

Also just made a HUGE announcement on the blog of the "HOLY MOLY" sort, so if you have a moment, stop on by. :)



Relyn Lawson said...

Thank you for posting this poem and the links. I absolutely love Billy Collins, (have posted his poems on my blog more than once)but had never heard him reading. This is a wonderful post and I am enjoying your blog so much. I'm so glad that I found it.

Shannon said...

Oh my. Thank you for letting us know about this poem. Of course I have to share it with others now! I hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day, Marta.

Gretchen said...

Beautiful! I love Billy Collins, but had never read this poem. I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to post it on my blog as well. Giving credit to you of course!

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