TWO POEMS FOR MOTHER'S DAY
The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when 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 into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long 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 sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid 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 worn truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
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.
Lies My Mother Told Me
If you keep eating raw spaghetti
you’ll get pinworms,
then I’ll have to make
a necklace of garlic for you to wear
each night while you sleep,
until they go away.
If you’re mean to your younger brother, I’ll know
because I have a special eye
that spies on you when I’m not home.
You cannot hide from it,
so don’t try.
If you touch your “down there”
any time other than when using the toilet,
your hand will turn green and fall off.
If you keep crossing your eyes
they will stay that way
until the wind
It is bad luck to kill a moth. Moths are
the souls of our ancestors and it just
might be Papa paying a visit.
If you kiss a boy on the mouth
your lips will stick together
and he’ll use the opportunity
to suck out your brains.
If you ever lie to me
God will know and
rat you out.
Trust me —
you don’t want that