Poem: This is not my story
This is not my story
I thought I knew the story of my mother:
she died of cancer when I was 12, died
deeply in love with Grant, and me, and Grant’s
daughter Emma. She loved rock climbing
and hiking, adventures and camping,
Yosemite and the Grand Tetons. Me.
I had enough of my mother to figure
out her story: I had her photographs,
drawings, letters, had her day book with notes,
dates, schedules, cycles, could piece together
her where, when, who, birthdays of people who
mattered, her marks on the days of her life.
Then one day I discovered I knew nothing:
that was the day my half brother called, the
brother she put up for adoption, the
brother everyone knew about but never
told me about. My half-brother. My
mother’s son. My mother’s other child.
And then another day, a few days later:
I found out my father loved my mother.
Really loved my mother. Had loved her all along.
Had not just married her because of me.
Had married my mother because of her.
And I knew the story of my mother
was just that—a story I’d made up.
I realized I didn’t know her at
all. I knew my illusion of her.
And losing the illusion of her,
I lost what I knew of my mother.
I had to start over. This is that
story, my story of starting over.
Roxanne Swentzell, Tewa, 1962 –
Window to the Past, 2000
Bronze, artist proof
Collection of the artist, on loan to the Heard Museum
Just a reminder that the speaker in the poem is not always the poet…
Or as Paul Squires puts it: “By all accounts the libraries are ledgers neatly divided into profit and loss, fiction and factions and none but fools do claim to know the difference.”
In this case, the poem was inspired by a story I heard. When I put myself in the person’s shoes, I came up with this poem. In some ways, the poem came out of the blue, insistent that I write it down immediately, my son bleating the while that I make him breakfast. In other ways, this story had a deep impact on me, and when I saw these images for the Read Write Poem prompt, I think it stirred the pot, and the poem came out. I considered editing it into a sestina for another Read Write Poem prompt, since there is so much repetition of certain words, but decided I was happy with simply using pentameter and five of the six sestina stanzas and one of the 3 lines traditional to the envoi. The missing parts of the story…
Thanks for the use of these photos goes to Deb of Read Write Poem.
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