Never Not Mother
Ten years ago, he says, I passed gas
at my son’s dinner table
(or perhaps out on the balcony,
he seems unsure) —
but he’s certain that
they had a dinner guest all the way
who must have gone home
with a bad impression of America’s Seniors.
My daughter claims that I abandoned her
to the care of her grandmother
while moving house to another city
(following her father no excuse);
I forced her to take art lessons
when she might have learned bull-fighting,
asked her to set the table
(a fistful of forks hurled at an antique painting)
and questioned the wisdom of using
public transportation while wearing
a see-through blouse.
It was that time of the century.
Luckily, I did not know all this for a decade
during which I sometimes felt acceptable,
or would have, but somehow
I’d lost my husband through the grate
of a storm-sewer
and even though I fished for him
with a magnet
his person carried nothing magnetic
and soon disappeared into darkness.
I have done all that I should not have done
and not done all that I should have done
and there is no health in me.
When I try to speak
I must balance several quarters
on my tongue
or lose my turn.
This is somewhat discouraging.
Oh, there are many of us —
on the street
we pass each other furtively,
the store-keepers are interested
in our weather, our uncertainties about
small repairs or volts and wattage,
the heat, the cold, local flora and fauna,
when we’re actually concerned with
the cracks in the sidewalk
and whether stepping on them
will break our mothers’ backs.
The Seige of Mafeking
When first they came to Mafeking, Mafeking,
The Redcoats joyously did sing:
They saw ahead a bowl of green,
Forested, cool, and all serene —
The most inviting sight they’d seen.
Putting away both gun and blade,
They plunged with joy into that shade;
The dome of blue above the place
Mirrored so well its placid space
They seemed each other to embrace.
Seduced by thoughts of future ease
They soon began to fell the trees
To build a village on the hill.
Its remnants demonstrate their skill —
The cemetery lies there still.
The battlements, not far away,
Are twisted burrows in the clay
Where many a mother’s son lay down
Defending honor, families, town
To glorify the Royal Crown.
My guide warns me against the holes
Which seem the work of monstrous moles;
He shows me where Lord Something died
Standing erect in foolish pride,
An action he does not deride.
Today each village has its chief,
Its history joined with its belief;
The judgment seat is made of stone,
A sacred place, a hallowed throne,
Where wisdom rules, high and alone.
Who is to say which one is right,
As we walk home in deepening night?
(The seige was lifted by the British, May 17, 1900.
Mafeking is now the capital of Bophutatswana, a black
township in South Africa. “Mafficking about” means
“to celebrate with boisterous rejoicing and hilarious