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poem: I Will Be My Mother's Apprentice

from our poet of the month: Carmen Giménez Smith

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Holding hands with an elderly parent

Getty/Nito 100

"That you didn’t know her is your / misfortune: a hot planet’s core, / late summer’s best light."

I WILL BE MY MOTHER’S APPRENTICE 

as if I were a hunger because
it is our bleak and common future
to reverse the sphinx. I study the meander
of her logic for context. Sometimes it is
like a poem that is not quite realized
filled with hollows and bursts,
a stranger’s grief and rage. She asks
for home when she’s home. She screams
for the purse we haven’t hidden from her.
Sometimes we circle the same spots,
and I try to be as I know she was with me
once: remedy and anchor. I’m a fair
to poor replica, yet still her proxy. 

That you didn’t know her is your
misfortune: a hot planet’s core,
late summer’s best light. As metaphor
I evoke a pink, vulnerable jelly,
translucent and containing the past.
I hold it in my hand and against a lamp.
This is our intimacy now. My nails trace
the brown spots that mark her losses.
Beautiful and sad and strange, I say,
because I’ve made her into something else.


Listen to Carmen Giménez Smith read "I Will Be My Mother's Apprentice":

Giménez Smith shared her inspiration for this poem with S&H:
"A part of growing older is realizing how I'm more and more like my mother, but I also lost time with her when she developed Alzheimer's so this poem laments the ways in which I still had stuff to learn but also that one thing I can do as an artist is turn her into a subject for meditative inquiry in a poem." 

More Poetry:

Deborah Anne Quibell's A Thousand Ways

Wilder's no. 112

Tyler Knott Gregson's take an ache, make it sing 


“I Will Be My Mother’s Apprentice,” from Be Recorder. Copyright © 2019 by Carmen Giménez Smith. Reproduced with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.


Carmen Giménez Smith

Carmen Giménez Smith is the author of six books, including Milk and Filth, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry, and Bring Down the Little Birds, winner of the American Book Award. She teaches at Virginia Tech University.


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