Friday, February 19, 2010

What We Carry


What we carried in our pockets
Was the business of those days
While our mothers, locked in closets
Of our making, hid away.
Our daughters fill their pockets
With their business, none of ours;
Their mothers, locked in closets,
Count the leaden, ticking hours.
We care too much for pockets --
What they carry, what they hold.
And we spend our store of living
Getting even, getting old.


  1. Yes indeed and all true. Counting the leaden hours locked in a closet...good metaphor.
    There is a movie called "Revolutionary Road"
    with Kate Winslet that deals with this aspect of a woman's life in the 50's.I know you would enjoy it.Lovely poem Karen.You're a bit of a wiz at this aren't you!

  2. Hmm, my mother had a secret she shared with me, and I feel it come to me in other ways....

    my boys will never understand me.

    this poem is a song, a litany, and a confession.

    LOVE IT,

  3. Love the delicate weaving of three generations of mothers and daughters who become mothers to daughters. Each aging and moving forward from a point picked up from their mothers lives to pass the ideal to the next generation who takes it forward to the next, while the older recedes.

    Delicate is the only word I have for this Karen, so delicate yet strong is the string that binds.

  4. Oh Karen, this is fabulous! Both closets and pockets are such exquisite metaphors, for secrets, for rules and rigid structures that hide us and define us. How the generations unfold from those definitions, how new generations must maintain the structures, but keep making more secrets. Living out of bounds while maintaining the confines outwardly. This poem just blows me away, and I have to say that it is one of my favorites of yours. So simple, but saying so very very much. Excellent.

  5. it feels almost painful how (in the sixth stanza) all the sense (as: reason, meaning) of what were described in the previous five stanzas are questioned.

  6. The cross-generational burdens are delineated clearly in this--a really strong piece. But is it also a commentary on Woolf's suicide?

  7. I was just watching The Hours yesterday... I don't know if that's what inspired this or not, but however you slice it, this is beautiful. The kind of thing that you'd see inscribed somewhere.

  8. Very original. Love the crafting here and the subtlty. You have refined it to an understated wellspring of artistry. Beautiful work.

  9. Karen, I like the circulation of this poem. That human ebb and flow is essentially Virginia Woolf. Lovely!

  10. So much truth is this. Beautifully witten.

  11. this is just beautiful, everything, the gentle rhythm, the repetition, the simpleness of the images.
    thanks for sharing
    crazy field mouse

  12. "Getting even, getting old" - ker-POW! A fabulous ending to a very well-put togethre poem. The rhythm and rhyme-schemes pleased me enormously and the truth of it... wow!

  13. beautiful and so true...
    Excellent work


  14. Yes, this really works. Well done.

  15. we care too much for pockets. says it all for me. lovely

  16. those last four lines are killers - lovely. Enjoyed it very much

  17. rallentanda - I've wanted to see that movie, and now I must. Thanks for the recommendation and the comments.

    Dianne - Even though this is a mother-daughter poem, I think it's more generational than gender related. Fathers and sons, I think may express it in differing ways, though. Thanks.

    TWM - You know, there was a good deal in this for me, and I nearly didn't post it because I thought it just didn't come through. Thanks for your comment on the delicacy of it. I hadn't thought of that, (and since I'm seldom referred to as delicate, I LOVE that!). :-)

    Cat - You go straight to the heart of this one, as you usually do. The relationships of mothers and daughters can be complicated.

    In this, I spoke of generational differences, too- those among ours and our mothers' and then our daughters'.

    SzelsoFa - I think it sad when this is what it comes down to - bitterness and resentment. Fortunately, not all relationships are this way! :-)

    John - Truly, I thought of Woolf's suicide as a side note once I had the idea of pockets holding our secrets and weighing us down. It seemed like a logical connection.

    Joseph - I need to watch that! I read it when it was first published, but I haven't seen it. The book was great. As I mentioned to John, above, Woolf's death didn't inspire the piece, but I connected to it with the image of the pockets.

    K - You say very nice things, and I hope it's not just because you're such a good friend! Anyway, I humbly thank you.

    Jeanne Iris - You have me smiling with the Woolf comment! Thanks.

    Char - Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    crazyfieldmouse- Love your name! Thanks for coming by and for visiting.

    Argent - Thank you! I appreciate the comments greatly.

    Dulce - Thanks!

    Rachel - Welcome, and thank you.

    swiss - Thanks!

    Niamh B - Welcome, and thanks!

  18. I can only echo the above - beautiful piece of writing where meaning and form match so harmoniously. And the last four lines are killers!

  19. Really brilliant, Karen! I loved that last line the best. "getting even" oooh!


  20. It's a wonderful poem, Karen, even not knowing, as I don't know, what the relationship is between it and V. Woolf. (I hid in my closet as a child, and my mother never found out. She was busy leading a double life, which she confessed to me only a few years ago. Her secret outraged me. I keep wanting to tell my brothers, but I suppose it's her business, not theirs.)

  21. wow!... fantastic poem! one of the best things I've read recently, the last lines... shockingly powerful! cheers!

  22. Like it very much - even though I'm left with the feeling that I'm missing something. No doubt I will wake up soon!

  23. And we spend our store of living
    Getting even, getting old.

    Maybe not, maybe it doesn't have to be like that... I love this poem, Karen, for the truths it expresses through your great talent and for the... nudge that it gives me. Thank you!

  24. I hope all the generations grasp life. No one is ever thanked for living locked away. The sacrifice is never fully appreciated.

    Penetrating verse, Karen.

  25. Perfectly paced, with not a syllable out of place. It warrants lots of re-reading - a really nicely crafted poem

  26. Titus - Thanks so much, JoAnne!

    Kat - Thanks, friend! :-)

    Chris - That you haven't told this secret so far tells me that you know how your mother entrusted you with this responsibility. Maybe that's wasn't fair of her. V.Woolf, by the way, filled her pockets with stones and drowned herself when she couldn't take her store of living anymore.

    watercats - What a nice thing to say! You have me all smiles!

    Dave - Maybe you have to be a girl? It's definitely about mother-daughter relationships.

    Vesper - Thanks. I hope it doesn't have to be that way, either. It's a sad view.

    jason - You are absolutely right! Thanks.

    Pure Fiction - Thanks for your very nice comment!

  27. Enjoyed this. I was surprised to see the pic of VW when I opened the page - I'd just told Poetikat that her poem reminded me of VW's "Jacob's Room".

  28. Dominic - I'll have to check out Kat's poem again. I'm glad you came by; thanks.

    Domestic Oubliette - Welcome, and thanks!

  29. Having three daughters, I can fully resonate with this Karen. Although I can say I'm lucky enough not to have any generational conflicts with any of them.

    The person that came to mind after reading your poem is my Grandmother. After my mother died my sister had the task of going through her personal items and came across a letter written to my mother by my grandmother years ago. It revealed a well-kept secret that shocked me & my sisters. She'd confided in her daughter but my mother kept it locked away in her closet.
    There's a lot of truth in your poem and I love the way you've brought three generations into it.

  30. Sorry Kare. Sorry sorry sorry!How could I leave such a sad lovely poem behind? I shall get Mrs EEjit to horsewhip me, which I think may be a punishment.
    If you forgive me could you please leave your email address in my comments box.I won't post it.
    Ps.No pockets in shrouds.

  31. this is an incredible view of the mother-daugher realtionship (i would think, being neither), but i think it goes way beyond that - the last two stanzas make it achingly universal - how we can easily get so wrapped up in ourselves we miss the most important people around us. and the tight rhythm becomes echoes of the "leaden hours" ticking - just fantastic.

  32. Stark and stunning. And I agree with Cat--one of my favorites of yours, Karen. This is such a tight, honest, bracing portrait of a dynamic that shadows, and uplifts, us throughout our lives. I love the overlaps, the folds, the weaving you've done. All coiled around an elemental backbone of concealment and resentment.

    I also really admire what you did with perspective here, stepping between the plural first person, and the third. It serves to simultaneously include, and alienate. It feels like an objective truth is being revealed. And it is.

    Amazing poem, Karen. But oh, to empty those pockets completely...

  33. This is truly a great piece Karen. I believe the thoughts expressed in here would resonate with everyone. Only in my case its more of a father-son relationship. Trust me, the closets and pockets only get bigger. :)

    He still wont let go of the closet and I still keep some things in the pocket. But we have an understanding and both know how much we love each other. I guess, thats all that matters in the end.

  34. Fantastic! Karen, in twelve succinct lines, you have written a novel. As always, I admire your form and how each word is carefully placed. The tone is very wise, too. Again, you choose phrases that say SO MUCH, and those phrases jump out and take hold of me. For example, "Of our making." The mothers aren't just in a closet. They're in a closet "of our making." Wonderful line break there, too.

    I also love "leaden ticking hours." I can feel the mustiness and heaviness of the dark closet, even though it's a symbolic one. I love how the symbolic says so much, but at the same time it feels real.

    The nod to Woolf works well. Yes, there's a darkness in love and life and relationships. There's a cyclical nature, too. Isn't it funny how we can't see that cycle when we're young? We thought our feelings were unique to us, when in reality, our mothers had felt the same things many years before. Now our kids repeat the cycle:)

    I love the last line, too. The mystery will keep stories churning in my mind for the rest of the day. Wonderful work, my friend!

  35. Margaret - We have so many metaphorical hiding places that it's interesting that you have an example of a literal closet where a huge secret, passed from generation to generation, was hidden. That gives a new layer of meaning to this poem. Thanks for sharing that.

    TFE - No need to apologize! I was incognito, hiding in my closet, picking lint from my pockets! Seriously, though, I keep thinking about your last comment. How true!

    joaquin - Thanks! I don't know if it's just mothers and daughters, but I think we often do have a push-pull relationship that evolves as we age.

    Aniket - I think you've just answered my musings about whether this is specific to mothers and daughters. Thanks for that. I think, too, that you are right. The pockets and closets may be large, but the love is all.

    Julie - :-D You have me beaming all over with your comments (which are, as usual, too generous). Thank you. I do appreciate the time you take to read so carefully and to comment specifically.

  36. Sarah - How did I miss you? Thank you for your careful reading and comments on both the form and meaning. You always go right to the heart the poem, and I appreciate your taking the time to give me such specific feedback. I always look forward to your comments.

  37. Very nice... there is a lot to think about here. I've been thinking on the theme of mothers and daughters, too. I'll need to come back and read this one again, later.

  38. This is an amazing poem. The last line grabbed me and won't let me go.

    Is it published somewhere? Please say yes. It is simply divine.

    I love reading well written poetry on blogs; it is such a treat. I'll be back for another poetry fix!!

  39. An exceptional poem, completely on target.
    Holding on, humans, such holder ons to
    everything, and as for myself, too often
    the negative.

  40. This was teasing.. yet how true!