Two Poems about Mothers

For all my eccentricities (there are 42, I counted), the one thing I am very serious about is poetry. As an English teacher, it is probably my favourite aspect of the subject. There is such a wealth of beautiful poetry out there and there is nothing more rewarding than searching for your own meaning in a verse. (Except pizza. Pizza is always more rewarding.) 

Here are two poems written by Irish poets that I think you guys will enjoy. The both have a common theme, in that both poets are fondly remembering their mothers and their respective memories of them.

The first is by one of my favourite poets, Seamus Heaney. This poem was recently chosen as Ireland’s favourite poem. 

When all the others were away at Mass

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives–
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

(For those of you who may not be aware of what ‘Mass’ is, it’s what Catholic people call going to church.)

The next poem is similarly poignant and evocative. It is by Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh.

In Memory of My Mother

I do not think of you lying in the wet clay 
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see 
You walking down a lane among the poplars 
On your way to the station, or happily 

Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday – 
You meet me and you say: 
‘Don’t forget to see about the cattle – ‘ 
Among your earthiest words the angels stray. 

And I think of you walking along a headland 
Of green oats in June, 
So full of repose, so rich with life – 
And I see us meeting at the end of a town 

On a fair day by accident, after 
The bargains are all made and we can walk 
Together through the shops and stalls and markets 
Free in the oriental streets of thought. 

O you are not lying in the wet clay, 
For it is a harvest evening now and we 
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight 
And you smile up at us – eternally.


I hope you enjoyed these lovely poems. They certainly evoke some powerful emotions in me. Have a great evening 🙂

Poem: A Christmas Childhood

This is a beautiful poem that I learned when I was in school that will punch you square in the feelings. It’s by poet Patrick Kavanagh and it’s called ‘A Christmas Childhood’.

My father played the melodion

Outside at our gate;

There were stars in the morning east;

And they danced to his music.

Across the wild bogs his melodion called

To Lennons and Callans.

As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry

I knew some strange thing had happened.

Outside in the cow-house my mother

Made the music of milking;

The light of her stable-lamp was a star

And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.

A water-hen screeched in the bog,

Mass-going feet

Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,

Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.

My child poet picked out the letters

On the grey stone,

In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,

The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.

Cassiopeia was over

Cassidy’s hanging hill,

I looked and three whin bushes rode across

The horizon – the Three Wise Kings.

An old man passing said:

“Can’t he make it talk” –

The melodion, I hid in the doorway

And tightened the belt of my box-pleated coat.

I nicked six nicks on the door-post

With my penknife’s big blade –

There was a little one for cutting tobacco.

And I was six Christmases of age.

My father played the melodion,

My mother milked the cows,

And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned

On the Virgin Mary’s blouse.