The Perfect Mother

By Susan Griffin b. 1943 Susan Griffin

The perfect mother lets the cat
sleep on her head. The
children laugh.
Where is she?
She is not carefully ironing the starched
ruffles of a Sunday dress.
What does she say?
She does not speak.
Her head is under the cat and
like the cat, she sleeps.


But her children are in a marsh!
Bogged, they have gone wild.
Yet, no one should worry.
See, they are there, in a sunny kitchen.
They drink cups of soup and wipe
their faces with yellow napkins.
What does it matter if
they are hatching plots, if
in their waking dreams
the poor cat is trapped
its hair
standing on end?


Where shall we go? We ask the perfect
mother. What
do you want of us? She is no
where to be found.
Not in the cookie jar
we have broken to bits
not under the shiny kitchen floor
not on our lips.
Here we are transfixed,
mourning the perfect mother, and she
is caught in the trapped cat
of her children’s dreams.

“The Perfect Mother” from Bending Home: Selected Poems 1967-1998 by Susan Griffin. Published in 1998 by Copper Canyon Press.

Source: Bending Home: Selected Poems 1967-1998 (Copper Canyon Press, 1998)

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Poet Susan Griffin b. 1943

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Gender & Sexuality, Living, Social Commentaries, Parenthood


Poet, essayist, and playwright Susan Griffin was born in 1943 in Los Angeles, California. An early awareness of the horrors of World War II and her childhood in the High Sierras have had an enduring influence on her work, which includes poetry, prose, and mixed genre collections. A playwright and radical feminist philosopher, Griffin has also published two books in a proposed trilogy of “social autobiography.” Her work considers . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Gender & Sexuality, Living, Social Commentaries, Parenthood

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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