“I Am Becoming My Mother”

“Flowers of North America” by Lou Paper

Today’s offering comes from Jamaican poet Lorna Goodison. I am currently reading I Am Becoming My Mother, her second collection of poetry. I struggled with the decision over which poem to share. I would have been satisfied with any poem in the book, but was literally torn when it came to works like “Guinea Woman,” “We Are the Women,” and “Garden of the Women Once Fallen.” I was driving myself crazy, so I decided on the one below on the basis that it is the title poem.

“I Am Becoming My Mother” by Lorna Goodison

Yellow/brown woman
fingers smelling always of onion

My mother raises rare blooms
and waters them with tea
her birth waters sang like rivers
my mother is now me

My mother had a linen dress
the colour of sky
and stored lace and damask
to pull shame out of her eye.

I am becoming my mother
brown/yellow woman
fingers smelling always of onions.

I am drawn to Goodison’s writing for a few reasons. Among them the cadence that makes me want to sing rather than just read the words and her masterful use of imagery, which makes the ordinary deeply striking.

About the image: The postcard above came from my swap-bot pal, EricB. I was randomly selected to receive this postcard via a giveaway on Instagram. Yay, me! The postcard was designed by Lou Papers, and was bedecked with even more flowers on the back.

10 thoughts on ““I Am Becoming My Mother”

  1. franhunne4u says:

    Not all of us have mothers who we can aspire to be. Some of us had mentally ill ones (narcissistic personalities, mothers suffering from depression, addicted mothers). So for some of us this poem is followed by a hollow laughter.

    That woman described was more my grandmother. I count my blessings to have had the most saintly step-grandmother ever who stepped up to bring up two girls who were not her own, not even her biological grandchildren, when she was already seeing old age coming closer … I am now the age my grandmother was when I started school. Could I do that now? No way. I could not even become my grandmother if I had to. I would probably become my overwhelmed, depressive mother instead. And here the circle closes. For some of us the poem describes a nightmare.


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