Village Voice: Poet Richard Blanco Explores Poems on Motherhood

05.26.22

In this latest episode of “Village Voice” poet Richard Blanco explores poems on motherhood.

“Since we did National Poetry Month, I figured we’d revisit Mother’s Day…My mother occupies a lot of my poetry, and my psyche.”

Richard shares the inspiration for writing “Mother Picking Produce,” after reading the poem “Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams.

“‘So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow’…I was studying that poem when I first started writing and I was looking at my mother in the kitchen, her everyday routine… how much depends upon my mother.”

Richard went on to celebrate his friend and fellow poet, Kim Dower. He shares her poem “Different Mothers” which you can find in her new collection I Wore This Dress Today for You, Mom. (Red hen Press.)

“Mother Picking Produce”

I trace my love and longing for Cuba to my mother who left behind every last one of her relatives, including seven brothers and sisters, to follow my father to America. This poem attempts to capture a very subtle yet powerful moment when I connected with my mother, not as a parent, but as a woman; the first time I came to understand the fullness of her humanity: the breadth of her loss and pain, as well as her incredible strength and perseverance

She scratches the oranges then smells the peel,
presses an avocado just enough to judge its ripeness,
polishes the Macintoshes searching for bruises.

She selects with hands that have thickened, fingers
that have swollen with history around the white gold
of a wedding ring she now wears as a widow.

Unlike the archived photos of young, slender digits
captive around black and white orange blossoms,
her spotted hands now reaching into the colors.

I see all the folklore of her childhood, the fields,
the fruit she once picked from the very tree,
the wiry roots she pulled out of the very ground.

And now, among the collapsed boxes of yucca,
through crumbling pyramids of golden mangos,
she moves with the same instinct and skill.

This is how she survives death and her son,
on these humble duties that will never change,
on those habits of living which keep a life a life.

She holds up red grapes to ask me what I think,
and what I think is this, a new poem about her–
the grapes look like dusty rubies in her hands,

what I say is this: they look sweet, very sweet.

This episode of “Village Voice” first aired on GBH on May 23rd, 2022.
Image by Markus Winkler at unsplash.com