Poems for Mothers Day

my progenitor and my progeny
my progenitor and my progeny

I always have a lot to celebrate on Mother’s Day. My mother, 88 and still funny and sharp, is a woman I’d consider myself lucky to even know, much less to claim as mother. I’ve got four older sisters who mothered me each in their own way, a wonderful mother-in-law, and an aunt-in-law I love as my own.


That’s a lot of mothers. I’ve collected even more poems about mothers. I posted a few around town to celebrate and to give tribute to everyone who’s opened their heart to mother another human.


I started at a florist, where I left Julia Kasdorf’s poem, “What I Learned From My Mother.”


poem is leaning against green vase
poem is leaning against green vase


Because the beautiful last lines are a little blurred in the photograph, I’ll highlight them here.

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.

Image 1



A cemetery (a favorite poem-elfing spot) seemed like a good spot for Ron Padgett’s “The Best Thing I Did.”

poem is on tree in foreground
poem is on tree in foreground


Truer words were never written:

The best thing I did

for my mother

was to outlive her




In the tiny dressing room of Nordstrom Rack, I left two poems with a similar theme, Walter de la Mare’s “Full Circle,” and Anna Kamienska’s “Mother and Me.”



I find de la Mare’s poem terrifying and sweet at once.




Kamienska’s poem is simple and beautiful:

true understanding

is always silence.





For mothering that never gets acknowledged, I left Maggie Anderson’s “Sonnet for Her Labor” in a discounted Mother’s Day card bin:

poem is in 50% off bin
poem is in 50% off bin


Laurel Mountain must not have had a Hallmark store.




Another mother who’s lived a hard life is given a voice in Langston Hughes’ “Mother to Son.” I left the poem in the football stands of a local high school, to offer a little encouragement to any youngster overwhelmed by difficulties.




I’ve loved this poem for so long. I hope it finds its way to someone who needs it.






Happy Mother’s Day!  Go forth and mother.





  1. Mary Lee

    Great words, pics, and poems for a Mother’s Day. Lovely to find your blogspot, but the “About” section doesn’t say who you are or where you live or have a pic. Hard to relate to a faceless, ethereal writer. I think I missed seeing in your list poems by Wm E Stafford…am I wrong? Thanks again for making my Mother’s Day a little more special.

      1. poemelf

        Glad you found the Stafford poem. It was one of the first poems I posted, and I remember I was so nervous that I made my daughter do it for me.

        You must be a Stafford fan…any favorites?

        It’s probably time for me to re-write my “About” section (I haven’t read it in years), but I still won’t include a photo. I like the idea of secret work, even if it’s an illusion.

        But I can fill in some of the blanks. Regular readers of this blog will know that I live in a suburb of Detroit, am originally from Maryland, have four children, ten siblings, a husband who worries about my sanity, and a black lab. As for my age . . . as Auntie Mame said, “Somewhere between 40 and death.”

        Anyway, thanks for your comments and thanks for giving me a nudge to re-write my About section!

        Happy Mother’s Day!

  2. Austin Starr

    very thoughtful and great selections! I love that you are posting poetry in the real world and posting your work here, virtually.

  3. Kelly

    Great post. Love the line “I learned to create from another’s suffering my own usefulness”. Ain’t that the truth. When my son was home last week I kept offering him food and he asked why I was always trying to feed him! I guess so I could feel useful!

    1. poemelf

      Makes me think some lines of Tennyson: “How dull it is to pause, to make an end/to rust unburnished, not to shine in use!” That’s you all over the place.

  4. Sherry Crowson

    Thanks for such a variety of poems about mothers. I loved the Sonnet for her Labor, and the Langston Hughes is also one of my favorite. Sometimes the bravest thing you do is just keep putting one foot in front of the other, not the kind of bravery that gets all the much notice, but the kind that keeps the world running and families together. You always have such thoughtful selections and I appreciate you sharing them!

  5. Ginny@RandomActsofMomness

    I *love* these poems, especially the one about outliving one’s mother. When I teach my students “The Joy Luck Club,” we always do an activity centered around parent/child poetry. I have several new good ones to share now. Thank you.

    And happy belated Mother’s Day!

  6. Meg

    WOW. I just found your blog as I was looking for The Weakness by Toi Dericotte. The concept of what you do is amazing, you certainly make so many people’s days. I love it and may have to try it myself!

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