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Poems for our mothers

What to say to your mother (or wife) on Mother’s Day? If your own words fail you, the anonymously crafted greeting card message will save you. If only you were a poet, you would have the right words.        What would those words be?
    That’s what Bay Weekly asked eight Chesapeake poets this Mother’s Day.
    Each replied with thought and words uniquely her and his own, entirely different in form and thought from the poem of any other. None tried to say everything; each was satisfied with the message of the moment. They need not be understood; just read and their images seen and felt.
    Perhaps their poems will inspire you to write your own this Mother’s Day.

–Sandra Olivetti Martin

Sunday Afternoon

Sunday afternoon
no mother
to call

Haiku by Alexis Rotella, of Arnold, whose Japanese-related and longer works have appeared in hundreds of journals and magazines. Author of 50 books, Alexis Rotella is also a digital artist and licensed acupuncturist. Of the 17-syllable haiku form she says, “I love the brevity of it all, the imagery and how powerful just a few words are, versus a long poem.” Sunday afternoon comes from her latest book, Between Waves (

Before You Were My Mother

Before you were my mother,
you were your high school’s
first girl president.
In your class of 1938, girls
outnumbered boys by one.
Yours was the deciding vote.
Is that why you taught me never
to vote for myself?

It’s a question I never asked my ­mother, Mary Jane.

Sonia Linebaugh, of Fayetteville, Penn., loves words and their meanings and the power that comes from putting words in relationship with phrases, sentences and paragraphs. She learned to write in public at Bay Weekly. Her work includes the memoir At the Feet of Mother Meera: The Lessons of Silence; and the anthologies New Lines for the Old Line State; Life in Me Like Grass on Fire; and three unpublished novels. Hear Sonia read her poetry at Watermark Gallery, 100 S. Charles St., ­Baltimore, on July 31, 2-5pm.


On holiday, my wife and I
sit outside the Garden
while our children,

cartwheeling on the lawn,
call out, “Hey Mom!
Watch me, watch me, Mom!”

Why do they call to her and not to me,
I wonder,
and then, remembering to Eve, try to imagine

what she must have thought about fathers,
their stern and unyielding demands,

and how she never knew a mother    
or the fruit of a kind and nurturing hand.

Michael Glaser, of St. Mary’s City, was Maryland Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2009 and an inspired professor at St. Mary’s College. He and his wife Kathleen lead yearly retreats that use personal reflection, reading and writing poetry to inspire our lives. More at

Idol Worship

I thought you were immortal:
Those eyes in back of your head,
Asbestos kitchen-hands,
And magic teeth, you said.

You spoke in adages.
Life isn’t fair — Rule One!
To be your teen was hard.
To be your kid — just fun!

How could I ever be
So sparkling, so adept?
A less than perfect me,
You could not accept.

Now, though we’re not the same,
You’d like who I became.

Jane Elkin, of Annapolis, is a linguist, singer and author of World Class: Poems Inspired by the ESL Classroom (Apprentice House, 2014). Of this poem, she explains, a poem about my mother could never be free verse. So this is a (modern) sonnet playing with line length, using iambic tetrameter instead of pentameter. To hear more, come to The Poet Experience at Zü Coffee in Annapolis on Friday May 27 at 6:30pm.

Telling the Red

I snap the geraniums in 400 ASP black-and-white
since that’s in my camera. They catch sun from snow
piled outside, in my bay window they glow
what my mother might call rather a brazen scarlet.

Each single floret is tiny, fragile, but
massed in a greater sum, big as a fist,
they burn my palms with their light.
Even when petals shrivel, officially finished,

that pungent crimson stays bright red.
Yet they print mere icicle gray.
Seeing this glossy photo, one would suppose
my geraniums pink, sappy lavender, white.

Will have to explain, these leaves are velvet
green. Recalling my mother’s distaste
for what is passé, right before I shot
I clipped what foliage had yellowed and dried.

My mother, whose birthday should be today,
insisted on positive attitudes. Oh, I can tell
they are red, she’d assure me. Color is not
what matters here, but your composition.

Note interplays, variegated light against
curved shapes, indented, the pick-up-stix grids
of spaghetti twigs bearing blossoms or leaves
versus the thick main stems … You’ve let them grow

leggy, ungainly, dear, do cut them back … By the rotund
weight of the pots, one knows they’re rusty brick.
The planes of ceiling and wall are as white as snow
on black branches outside. As for your voids —

I’m all too aware of the voids. And look! She’d point
to what I see only now, in the space of the pane:
Did you know you caught a cardinal in flight?
Male, you can tell by the crest. Very red.

Elisavietta Ritchie, a full-time writer, poet, photojournalist, editor and translator from Russian and French. Some 20 books and chapbooks have seen print, with more ­collections in progress.


Her copper dome stretches upward, in ­tempest
rains and gentle snow. Brown stained
glass eyes; silent, steady, watching the sea,
beckoning to ships. A mountain woman.
Where marbled stone meets her slated peak,
misty green from age, days reflect
the sun and stars. Sturdy walls hold
her tall through one hundred years of ­isolation.
She does not count time with us, but watches
us grow, eyes gazing down at our shoulders.
And her quarter toll, always on time,
fills spaces that light will never reach.

Ariel Martinez Brumbaugh, a Chesapeake Bay native, now lives along the Patuxent Corridor and works as the director of admission at an independent school in Silver Spring. She calls her poem, Mother, “really more symbolic,” as her mother, Gail Martinez, is not a monumental clock. Bay Weekly’s former junior reporter grew up to earn a masters degree in poetry from Johns Hopkins. Her favorite poet is CK Williams.

Uti Dahlin

    She said, “Uti Dahlin, I would love it if you would record Uti Dahlin.”
    It was a Swedish hymn that her grandmother, Anna Anderson Bengston, sang to her when she was a girl, visiting the farm in Connecticut. Eighty years later she sits at the piano, staring at her fingers, willing them to play, reminding them how to find chords that go with the melody she is hearing in her head.
    Her mother sent her to Peabody Prep so she could have a better teacher than could be found in Laurel, Maryland, in 1942. She took the train to Camden Station in Baltimore every Saturday morning and walked from there to Mt. Vernon Square. After her lesson, choir practice and her theory class, she went home, took a nap and then played in a swing band all night long at the USO. She was 12.

we live together
mother, daughter, granddaughter
tied by blood, by history
by music

ivory keys
unlocking memory

my funny valentine
smoke gets in your eyes
as time goes by

Julia does homework
I do dishes
she plays
later, Julia will plug in
her electric bass
put in her ear buds
David Bowie, The Pretty Reckless, ­Mötley Crüe

later, will gently take
the viola da gamba out of its case
rosin the bow, and get to work
Telemann, Uti Dahlin, Marais

we are all present, in the room
daughters and mothers
and those who came before —
music from their world
floating in the air, at home in our hearts

Carolyn Anderson Surrick, a writer and musician, lives in Crownsville with her extended family, two dogs and a rabbit. She has written two books of poetry, Between War and Here and Silently, Shadows Are Sweeping, and is at work on her next book. She performs, tours and records with Ensemble Galilei, whose latest CD, From Whence We Came, has as one of its tracks Uti Dahlin.


i almost stole my mom’s life
when she pushed to give me

mine. my head was too big
to fit through her, peeking into

linoleum-cold world of
hospital where readied

hands fought to save one
life, and to start another.

i’ve still got a scar on my fore
head: mark of mother and metal

on infant skin. mark of life,
mark of labor, mark of all that

which brings and brought and
pushes and pulls, and pushes,
and pushes, and pushes.

Andrew ­Wildermuth, of Edge­water, is a poet, ­journalist and student of English Literature at St. Mary’s ­College of Maryland. He loves words, but he loves his mother more.