Poem of the Week | January 28, 2019

This week we present “Mother, After The Hurricane,” a new poem by Matthew Gellman.

Matthew Gellman’s poems are featured or forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Narrative, The Common, Passages North, Ninth Letter, The Cortland Review, Poet Lore and elsewhere. He is the recipient of awards and honors from the Academy of American Poets, the New York State State Summer Writers Institute and the Vermont Studio Center. In 2018, Matthew was awarded a Brooklyn Poets fellowship and was included in Narrative’s 30 below 30 list. He holds an MFA from Columbia University and lives in New York, where he teaches at Hunter College.

Gellman was recently a finalist for Missouri Review‘s 2019 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize for Poetry.

 

MOTHER, AFTER THE HURRICANE

 

Later in her life, when she fell in love
with the new house, the stillness
surrounding her, she and I walked
the constant field without saying anything.
This was always our way, but the silence
was different now, less open space,
maybe our bodies closer together,
something bright sewn into the middle.
Amazing how this weather goes on,
she says, looking up, and I nod.
There’s hardly a stammer in the sky
and every bird continues beating.
I was the only one who stayed,
she says, jumping over the stream,
the sun in her hair revealing the full red.

 

Author’s Note

 

This poem was written as a part of a longer series of poems about my mother, and is definitely the most hopeful and optimistic in tone. I also wrote it more recently than the other poems about her. My mother has lived alone in Florida for eight years now and has stayed put during numerous hurricanes, even the ones that were considered grounds for evacuation. My mother has generally been a model of tenacity for me throughout my adult years, as she has handled divorce, grief, and aging in ways that continue to surprise me. I was trying to capture the way in which watching someone endure trauma can deepen the silence between you and that person, and how that silence comes to feel like a protective layer around the relationship. Moments of inner quietude feel rare to me even in some of my most intimate relationships, and so I wanted to use this poem to document one such moment I had with my mother.

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