for my mother
For my mother, Helen Richardson,
June 27, 1923 – September 5, 1981
Through astral reverie, I visit your essence,
Lingering alongside that of your beloved father—
The grandfather who escaped this earth prison
Before I was sentenced to its concrete and bars.
You are the same small brown woman with black
Hair and eyes of fire that flash, imparting to me
You intuit I am near, perceiving you both—my first
Look at the Greek grandfather I never met.
Our Greekness on this planet has led
Us back to a logical legendary ancestor—
A strong Spartacus whose love of freedom spread
Even as he perished like Christ on a cross.
But you are a pure American South woman
And if any Kentucky woman deserves the title
Of steel magnolia, it is you, who through a frail
Body still attests the strength of a Sandow.
Your ethereal mind reminds me of the day
We saw those two turtles come into the yard.
Standing over them, we marveled, and I will never
Forget what you said: “If we had shells like that,
We would be protected from the dangers of this world.”
And I felt that I was in the presence of a wise master.
It was only later that I realized the full impact
Of what seemed a simple yet deep message—
We need a protective shell even more to shield
The heart than the head, for it is through the emotions
That we inflict enormous damage on our souls. I am
Blessed and grateful to inform you I finally understand.
To read my prose commentary on this poem, please visit, “Original Poem: “Southern Woman” with Commentary” at LetterPile
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