NPM: For my husband’s mother by Ellen Bass

For my husband’s mother

Ellen Bass


Those months I carried Sara

I’d think of your mother,

the woman who carried you

though she could not

keep you.

This woman

we do not know, this girl

whose life was changed

in ways we’ll never know,

who wanted or did not want

who loved or did not love

who chose or did not choose

but, willing or reluctant

carried you.


Easily, like the grass that sprouts the pasture green

after first fall rains; or in great pain,

volcanic, slow,

the creaking

cracking of the earth, she

birthed you.


We do not know her name

or what she thought as her fingers soaped her taut

belly in the bath,

as your kicks reached her

first uncertain, then

definite, firm rabbit thumps.


We do not know if she could

keep food down, if

her legs cramped,

if she grew dizzy in the grocery

had to drop her head between her knees

to keep from blacking out.


We do not know if she held you in her hospital bed,

if her breasts were bound to keep the milk from

letting down

or if they drugged her and she woke

only to the new softness of her belly, like dough.

We do not know

what friends or family criticized her, if they

sent her out of town and brought her back

as though she’d been on holiday.


We know only

there was a woman who gave you

the food of her blood

the bed of her flesh,

who breathed for you.


We do not know

if anyone ever

thanked her.


From Claiming the Spirit Within: A Sourcebook of Women’s Poetry edited by Marilyn Sewell


About Vasilly

Mother, daughter, sister, college student, bookworm, lover of chocolate and coffee.
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12 Responses to NPM: For my husband’s mother by Ellen Bass

  1. zibilee says:

    Oh, that’s such a beautiful and moving poem. I love the way it totally evokes the idea of motherhood, and adoption. Great choice today!

  2. Oh my – it moved me to tears and I don’t even know if anyone I know has been adopted. Just beautiful.

  3. boardinginmyforties says:

    Wow, I love this…so powerful!

  4. Sara says:

    This is fine. So very fine.

  5. Care says:

    Whoa. Yes, powerful. and fine.

  6. buriedinprint says:

    If that poems is anything like the others in that collection, you must find it quite a treasure indeed.

  7. kiss a cloud says:

    That is so beautiful. I didn’t realise it was National Poetry Month already, and almost over, too. Thanks for sharing this one.

  8. bookworm says:

    This is a beautiful and moving poem. Thanks for sharing it.

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