An Anti-Hallmark Poem for Mother’s Day

mother's day graphic

I found myself unexpectedly at our local library branch up the block this Saturday with my 9 year old. (Confession: Her stack of books was due THAT day.) While my daughter browsed, it occurred to me that even this small branch might have some poetry books and I’d been meaning to get some for myself. Among the ones I took home was American’s Favorite Poems , edited by Robert Pinsky.

It has been a joy to read – reacquainting me with poems that seem like old friends and introducing me to new ones – each with a short note from the person who sent it to Pinksy explaining why it was his or her favorite.
One poem seems particularly appropriate to share as Mother’s Day approaches. It’s not flowery and sentimental. It’s real. It captures that deep yearning for alone time that mothers – or anyone who cares for others – will recognize. That yearning for “a little room for thinking” explains why so many of us ask nothing more for Mother’s Day than time for ourselves!


She wanted a little room for thinking:
but she saw diapers steaming on the line,
a doll slumped behind the door.
So she lugged a chair behind the garage
to sit out the children’s naps.
Sometimes there were things to watch –
the pinched armor of a vanished cricket,
a floating maple leaf.  Other days
she stared until she was assured
when she closed her eyes
she’d see only her own vivid blood.
She had an hour, at best, before Liza appeared
pouting from the top of the stairs.
And just what was mother doing
out back with the field mice? Why.
building a palace. Later
that night when Thomas rolled over and
lurched into her, she would open her eyes
and think of the place that was hers
for an hour – where
she was nothing,
pure nothing, in the middle of the day.
~ Rita Dove

7 thoughts on “An Anti-Hallmark Poem for Mother’s Day

  1. What a wonderful poem, I can definitely relate. For my birthday this year I am going away by myself. It’s just for one night but I need that space to be completely alone for awhile. I don’t think my husband completely understands but he knows that I will come back much happier and more relaxed so that’s all he needs to know, really!

    1. Glad you liked the poem, it was such a nice surprise to stumble across it. That’s great that you’re getting away on your own! There is something particularly re-charging about alone time.

  2. Cool poem 🙂 I’m sitting here at Caribou waiting for my Roveville, Minnesota ECFE book club to start. This months book…Remodeling Motherhood! Just thought you want to know 🙂 Congrats on your book BTW!

    1. That is so cool! I have so many relatives in Roseville. Let me know how the book club goes. I’ve been told it’s a perfect book for book clubs since it’s about what everyone talks about at book clubs anyway!

  3. Funny…We saw Pinsky on tour when he first published the book. I’m glad he included this one.
    Thanks for sharing it.

  4. Loved this piece! Thanks so much for sharing. It’s so rare to find a gem speaking about Motherhood that isn’t glowing about the richness. There is unbelievable richness and joy and discovery and wonder. But, there is darkness and questioning and suffocation at times, too. It’s a wonderful mix.
    Thanks again, Kristin!

    1. That’s why I love this one too Jennifer. It was such a treat to stumble across it unexpectedly.
      Happy Mother’s Day!

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