Maternal

By Gail Mazur b. 1937 Gail Mazur
On the telephone, friends mistake us now   
when we first say hello—not after.
And that oddly optimistic lilt
we share nourishes my hopes:
we do sound happy. . . .

Last night, in my dream’s crib,
a one-day infant girl.
I wasn’t totally unprepared—
there was the crib, and cotton kimonos,   
not just a padded dresser drawer.

And then, I knew I could drive   
to the store for the tiny, funny   
clothes my daughter wears.

I was in a familiar room
and leaned over the rail, crooning   
Hello, and the smiling baby—
she’d be too young for speech,   
I know, or smiles—
gurgled back at me, Hullo.

—If I could begin again,   
I’d hold her longer, closer!
Maybe that way, when night opens   
into morning, and all my windows   
gape at the heartbreaking street,   
my dreams wouldn’t pierce so,

I wouldn’t hold my breath
at the parts of my life still in hiding,   
my childhood’s white house
where I lunged toward the flowers of love   
as if I were courting death. . . .

Over the crib, a mobile was spinning,   
bright birds going nowhere,
primary colors, primary
as mothering once seemed. . . .

Later, I wonder why I dreamt
that dream, yearning for what I’ve had,   
and have

why it was my mother’s room,
the blonde moderne bedroom set
hidden under years of junk—a spare room’s   
the nicest way to put it,

though now all
her crowded rooms are spare—

Gail Mazur, “Maternal” from Zeppo's First Wife: New & Selected Poems (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005). Copyright © 1995 by Gail Mazur. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: The Common (The University of Chicago Press, 1995)

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Poet Gail Mazur b. 1937

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Family & Ancestors, Living, Growing Old, Home Life, Relationships, Infancy, Parenthood

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Gail  Mazur

Biography

After nearly 13 years of apprenticing herself to poetry, during which she studied with Robert Lowell and immersed herself in the Boston/Cambridge literary scene, Mazur published her first collection, Nightfire (1978), at age 40. Other books include The Pose of Happiness (1986); They Can’t Take That Away from Me (2001); and Zeppo’s First Wife: New & Selected Poems (2006). Tess Taylor, interviewing Mazur for the Atlantic Monthly . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Living, Growing Old, Home Life, Relationships, Infancy, Parenthood

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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