from Peter John

My Mother Was Always Pregnant

by Peter John

Weaned on a Miss America-Sandra Dee-Donna Reed- Diet
She tasted the dream of a million Annette Funicellos,
Saved herself for marriage, surrendered
Twin burdens of classes and waiting,
Buried graduation in a family plot
With dreams of ivy halls and stethoscopes,
Strapped on her mandatory rucksack of “laters”
Started making babies,
Started shaping me.

My mother was always pregnant.
Ten years from the first morning’s green gilled
Annunciation, six cycles of sickness and distention
Four and one-half years some half-foreign
Life sucked her blood.
Beach bunny body blossomed, bloomed,
Bloated, blood pressure stretched higher
Scores across her belly.

My dutiful mother was always pregnant,
Every midnight bump another abysmal alarm
Across sleep’s shallow threshold,
One more weary bookmark binding
Countless screaming “if-onlys” to her back,
Peeling seasons of her soul
Raw, sanity paying time’s harsh taxes.

My mother was always pregnant.
Four and one-half years of mood swings
Four and one-half years of weight gain
Four and one-half years of spikes
Stiffening her spine. Four and one-half years
Of sandpaper shuttles in her knees,
Her “could’ve” cargo welded
With futile fragments of identity.

My mother was always faithfully pregnant
And mourning, mourning,
Mourning the pilfered promise,
The stolen valedictorian
Future finding cures, healing
Threatened tomorrows. Targeting
Intangible enemies, her
Swaddling ferocity flailed narrow
Leather stripes, belt buckle discipline
Never bruising the Simon Says
Notion that nothing else mattered
As long as she stayed pregnant –

And my mother was always pregnant,
Gritting teeth through locked eyelids
Against regrets sent from
Satan, till now —
Three times a night her bladder pushes
Tired legs to elusive relief —
Three times a night her white linen gown
Ghosts her drifting frame down
A creaky corridor —
Three times a night gnawing
“Nevers” nibble through
Sheltering dreams, reality
Splashes through whatever
Shallow sanity she’s recovered,
The toilet flushes,
And one more midnight reminder of everyone
She might have been spins
Into oblivion.

My mother was always pregnant.
My mother has not slept a full night
In forty-nine years.

– – – – –

copyright 1996,2010 by Peter John Stone. All rights reserved. No use is authorized without permission from author, but the author offers reasonable terms, and entertains any proposals. This poem originally appeared in the anthology Nobody’s Orphan Child published by Seattle’s Red Sky Poetry Theatre —


Comments on: "My Mother Was Always Pregnant" (6)

  1. Peter, I love, love, love this poem! I hope you don’t mind…need to share it. Love your mom, she’s a wonderful person.

    • Thank you so much! My mother loves this poem as well. I guess it lets her know I really was listening all those years. This is also one of only a half-dozen pieces of free verse I’ve written, though some would argue its inherent rhythm does not really qualify it so. Interestingly, I wrote poems and lyrics all the time until this one, and have written very few since.

      Please share it all you want.

  2. Jean Oltvedt said:

    Peter! I’m so proud of you for even noticing her lot in life! I can see where daughters would understand and see this but sons, not so much. And if and when they did, their only response would usually be “gee, I’m so glad I’M not a woman!” instead of “thanks, Mom, for giving up your life for me and my siblings!” I don’t want to disparage these women at all. They did what was “required” of them for their time. Bless them! But please excuse me if I say I do NOT want this for my daughters nor my new granddaughter! We just can NOT go back to that time. Women are still an untapped resource to this country/world. We are just beginning to see this. Please, please let it continue!

    • Thanks for appreciating it. AS I said in an earlier comment, my mother loves this poem. It is easy to criticize the parenting we received with hindsight. What is not as easy is acknowledging that noboady has to pass an aptitude test to be a parent, and our parents really do the best they can under whatever circumstances they face.

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