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3:15am poem for my mother’s birthday

May 12, 2008

This poem was written as part of the 3:15 experiment, where you wake at 3:15am and write, then publish it as written (“the raw stuff, baby” as Danika Dinsmore puts it) at the

I am posting it today since it is Mother’s Day. For other’s on this theme, go to readwritepoem or take a ride on the poetry train.

on sunday my mom turns 65
30 years ago she stopped
celebrating birthdays
at 35 she said age didn’t matter
she was 35 she was over 35
she didn’t celebrate birthdays

maybe she didn’t but we did
simple affairs
my brother shows up on her birthday
my sister and i will take her
to lunch one day after aerobics
slipping on summer dresses
over damp and sticky bodies
sometimes my grandma joins us
after salads we get two desserts
they send over a creme brule with a candle

you’d never guess my mom was 65
a life without alcohol, cigarettes, drugs
you can tell in the quality of skin
the energy in the eyes
she’s solid as befits someone of 65
who believes in the four food groups:
starch, carbonation, grease, sugar

but she is busy
she has four wigs
and maybe a dozen characters now
i can’t keep track
she leads tours in costume
tells stories of our community
to those who listen, who ask, who pay

she tells the stories through these characters
the stories of the women, the poor
among them my great grandmother anna
she grew cosmos, begonias, cecil bruner roses,
wrote about gardening in crazy california
for the LA Times
she died after 35 of a botched hysterectomy:
they tied her stomach together
she starved to death

(today a doctor kneads my belly
feels around inside me
says i am fine)

for anna my mother dons a blond wig
tells of the coming of the automobile
to our town that automobile which
contributed to my great grandfathers
catastrophic loss–he fell into the
mechanics pit in a garage and was
castrated–breathe–let it sink in
he too may have been 35 at the time
but i doubt it
he went off and lived in hobo jungle
seaside park now the county fairgrounds

(tonight i will go see fireworks there
and the animals and the dahlias)

my grandpa said he died said he was an orphan at 14
but great grandpa was caretaker there a long time
they’re both gone now

my mother on sunday will be 65
she has told me this almost daily
she doesn’t know what to do
she must make a decision
something about social security benefits
i haven’t helped her beyond
pointing out that it must be troubling her
this decision and i don’t know what to tell her
what do i know about social security

in october my grandmother her mother will be 90
she too does not smoke, do drugs or drink
well just a little glass of wine before dinner
my grandmother is beautiful still
–the most beautiful girl
in oxnard they always said
she watches television
listens to talking books
takes an inordinate interest in my life

in january i turned 40
a few silvers show in the gold
they’re strong wiry
i look forward to a platinum mane
my younger sister sunbrowned hair sunblond
she finds them for me these grays
but three days ago at a wine bar i was asked for my id

i wish i knew what to tell my mother
other than happy birthday
maybe i’ll just read this to her
give her some cosmos, some cecil bruners from my garden
try to go with her wherever she needs me to go

6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 12, 2008 1:37 pm

    wow. you’re pretty coherent at 3:15 am. Kudos! I’m afraid that experiment is not for me….I couldn’t even find the keyboard at that time of day!

  2. May 12, 2008 3:09 pm

    all you need to do is find a writing implement and something to scratch letters onto–the idea is to stay in that hypnopompic/hypnogogic state between sleeps so the creator is awake enough and the editor is asleep enough…

    some experimenters don’t even turn on their lights–much less a computer!

    in fact, experimenter jen hofer was telling me that all of her duvets are stained with ink from falling back to sleep pen in hand, poem in mind….

  3. May 13, 2008 7:33 am

    that’s pretty impressive for 3.15am! Nicely told family history too

  4. May 21, 2008 12:09 am

    what a an amazing tribute to your mother. your love and admiration for her exudes from it. i love the way it tells a story too. i make no secret of my partiality to story :)

    thanx for visiting my mother’s day photo essay poem last week. sorry it took so long to reciprocate

  5. Katie Kosmala permalink
    August 11, 2010 4:42 pm

    That was beautiful and heartfelt Gwendolyn <3 I cry tears of gratitude for all mothers, yours and mine, you and I. Your Mom was a marvelous woman, she's lucky to have such a daughter to capture her spirit in words. Blessings.


  1. Virtual Reading & Sample Poems from Middle of the Night (en theos press 2011) « art predator

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