17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Another Great Poem About Moms

I've shared this with my mother, sisters, grandmothers, and a few others already, but I thought you all would be an appreciative audience. Although a lot of us probably aren't old enough to be on the "mother" end of this situation, I think most of us can appreciate the humor. It's by Billy Collins, former US Poet Laureate, and it's hysterical and moving at the same time. Enjoy!

The Lanyard

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
bouncing from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past--
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.
Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift--not the archaic truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-toned lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Billy Collins, The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems, New York: Random House, 2005, p. 45-6.


  • Ahhh I love Billy Collins. And I love that poem. For me, it sums up all the feelings I have now about my mom (and dad) now that I'm a parent myself. How do I express to them how thankful I am for everything they gave me? Maybe send them this poem.
    posted by Blogger marian at 5/13/2006 06:06:00 PM  

  • I LOVE that poem. I'm dying, dying to hear it read over the pulpit on Mothers' Day instead of the doggerel we usually get. I know it's not likely, but I can dream.
    posted by Blogger Eve at 5/13/2006 08:06:00 PM  

  • Oh, thank you so much! That was not only amazing, but completely and honestly accurate.
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 5/13/2006 08:45:00 PM  

  • I really love this poem and had never heard it before. Thanks for posting it Sunny. I will definitely share it with my mom...probably next year though...since I already sent her this year's "lanyard" (a new book).
    posted by Blogger Jen at 5/14/2006 01:49:00 PM  

  • I sent my mom these beautiful little notecards from Kate's Paperie for M's Day and I felt it was so totally insignificant, better than a lanyard I guess.

    Though I appreciated all the testimonies in our ward today, (2 TALES girls represented), I decided that I am just not that fond of mother's day. It seems a lot of focus is on trying to make the non-mothers comfortable with the day, and that makes me uncomfortable. Maybe it shouldn't.

    And on this mother's day in particular, I felt pretty inadequate at mothering, and so I just felt uncomfortable about being honored. I guess it's the whole pedestal thing....
    posted by Blogger Kage at 5/14/2006 07:55:00 PM  

  • I have never read that poem before. Thanks so much for sharing. It is beautiful, touching and humorous.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 5/15/2006 09:49:00 AM  

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