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A Practical Mom

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can go to Bible study every Sunday
and swear she’s still not convinced,
but she likes to be around people who are.
We have the same conversation
every few years—I’ll ask her if she stops
to admire the perfect leaves
of the Japanese maple
she waters in her backyard,
or tell her how I can gaze for hours
at a desert sky and know this
as divine. Nature, she says,
doesn’t hold her interest. Not nearly
as much as the greens, pinks, and grays
of a Diebenkorn abstract, or the antique
Tiffany lamp she finds in San Francisco.
She spends hours with her vegetables,
tasting the tomatoes she’s picked that morning
or checking to see which radishes are big enough to pull.
Lately everything she touches bears fruit,
from new-green string beans to winning
golf strokes, glamorous hats she designs and sews,
soaring stocks with their multiplying shares.
These are the things she can count in her hands,
the tangibles to feed and pass on to daughters
and grandchildren who can’t keep up with all
the risky numbers she depends on, the blood-sugar counts
and daily insulin injections, the monthly tests
of precancerous cells in her liver and lungs.
She’s a mathematical wonder with so many calculations
kept alive in her head, adding and subtracting
when everyone else is asleep.


Amy Uyematsu, “A Practical Mom” from Stone Bow Prayer. Copyright © 2005 by Amy Uyematsu. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press. www.coppercanyonpress.org
Source: Stone Bow Prayer (Copper Canyon Press, 2005)
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A Practical Mom

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  • Poet Amy Uyematsu was raised in southern California by parents who had been interned in American camps during World War II. She earned her undergraduate degree in mathematics at the University of California at Los Angeles.
     
    Uyematsu’s poems consider the intersection of politics, mathematics, spirituality, and the natural world. She is the author of several poetry collections, including Stone Bow Prayer (2005), Nights of Fire, Nights of Rain (1997), and 30 Miles from J-Town (1992), which won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize.
     
    Uyematsu co-edited the seminal anthology Roots: An Asian American Reader (1971), and her own work has been included in the anthologies Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics from California (2008, edited by Christopher Buckley and Gary Young), The Misread City: New Literary Los Angeles (2003, edited by Scott Timberg and Dana Gioia), and Sister Stew: Fiction and Poetry by Women (1991, edited by Juliet Kono...

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