Saturday, November 10, 2007

"Portrait of my Mother on Her Wedding Day" by Celia Gilbert

“Portrait of My Mother on Her Wedding Day”
by Celia Gilbert

A young woman,
lilies gathered to her breast—
the moment of the wave
before it crests—
even in this sepia image
dazzling me, like a wedding guest.

Fifty years later, I uncover
in the movement of her swept-back veil
the life that was to come,
seeing revealed the cunning of those hands
that clasp the flowers;
the will to shape a world
of her devising.

And once again I feel
how evil seems to fall away
before the power of her candid gaze
while everything in us that answers to good
crowds round her lap
hearing itself spoken for

This poem speaks so clearly and exactly, with no sloppy, extra words. I like how subtle the rhyme is. You can read it without realizing it is there, but all hte while the rhyme gives this pleasant, almost subconscious echoing ring to the ends of the lines. I find this poems opens up my own memories of my mother—I remember digging around in an old trunk of hers and finding a black & white picture of her just before she married, so young and so smooth-faced and brave-looking and unbelievably beautiful and familiar at the same time. It gave me a little shiver, like this poem does, that I knew the future of this young woman more than she did—the home she would make with her hands (“the cunning of those hands”) and the way her choices would make a world for me to live in (“the will to shape a world of her devising”). The last stanza is exactly what I love best about my mother—that she claimed me for Goodness, recognized goodness within me and defended it sometimes against my own lack of faith in (or even evidence to the contrary of) that goodness. And I like the picture the words make in that last stanza: as if there are all these cherubic little children inside us (“everything that is in us that answers to good’) that come crowding up around her lap eagerly at her call, ready to be kissed and approved.
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