Poetry Sunday: What I Learned From My Mother

Our mothers teach us many things, both by their words and their actions. My mother was a woman of few words but many actions. What I learned from those actions, primarily, was compassion for others. 

I think Julia Kasdorf's mother must have been a lot like mine.

What I Learned From My Mother

by Julia Kasdorf

Related Poem Content Details

I learned from my mother how to love 
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand 
in case you have to rush to the hospital 
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants 
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars 
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole 
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears 
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins 
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point. 
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn’t know 
the deceased, to press the moist hands 
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer 
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then. 
I learned that whatever we say means nothing, 
what anyone will remember is that we came. 
I learned to believe I had the power to ease 
awful pains materially like an angel. 
Like a doctor, I learned to create 
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once 
you know how to do this, you can never refuse. 
To every house you enter, you must offer 
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself, 
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.


  1. What a wonderful poem. And what a wonderful mother you have. I am of an age where there is more sorrow to face - and more peonies and peaches to share.

    1. My mother has been gone from us for 13 years now and I miss her every day, but I still find her looking over my shoulder and giving me advice - most often in the garden.

  2. Happy Mother's Day, Dorothy! And to your daughters as well if they are mothers.

    How beautiful! I had a teacher who always attended wakes and funerals and I always thought she was kind of morbid, but perhaps she meant it as a way to be present when it counts. :-)

    1. When I was little, I always resented being dragged to those wakes and funerals. Later, I understood the importance of simply "being there" for my friends and family.

  3. Yes, my mother looks over my shoulder too and I have still so many questions I did not take time to ask her. My husband says I get more like her every year. But I think we just carry our mothers in us, whether they were good moms or not.

    1. I think it's true that we always carry our mothers with us. Unfortunately, I can never hope to be the woman or the mother that my mother was.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Poetry Sunday: Don't Hesitate by Mary Oliver

Open Season (Joe Pickett #1) by C.J. Box - A review

Poetry Sunday: Hymn for the Hurting by Amanda Gorman