My hand is crushed by a proud Leaving Cert mother,
we congratulate ourselves on her daughter’s success.
Parting, she tells me her heart is breaking after her.
I drive from the car-park
back to the day of my own results.
I duck below an up-and-over door,
clamber over boxes
and box shaped plastic,
to where you are checking off items on a delivery docket.
You set the clip board down, breathe deeply,
put two steady hands in front of you on the shelf.
How you had wanted me to get away,
how life had made you fierce,
my ninja mother fighting on all fronts.
Women haunt their daughters’ rooms this evening
folding clothes, arranging their things on the table.
I love you for all the grief you never allowed yourself.
The time of year made me think of sharing the story of this poem as my first post on the GRW blog. I have the fortune to teach near where I live so I often meet students and parents as I go about my business. Three years ago this week I met a lady in the Lidl car park and we had a chat about her daughter’s results and plans. I remembered my own results day and how my mum reacted when I told her. I put my thoughts in my notebook that evening and the poem isn't substantially different from the first prose draft.
I wanted to make the poem sound like I was sharing the story of it with my mum over a cuppa so it is very direct and addressed to mum. I tried to suggest the flashback, the physical motion of ducking under the up and over door to the store at the back of our shop and the introduction of the real subject of the poem by the different line layout in the second part of the poem.
The poem sat for a while in a work in progress folder. It was a hard poem to share, especially with mum because I didn’t want to diminish her reaction in comparison with the other mum in the poem’s reaction. Once I found the ninja mother image I was happy. My mum is a fighter, a disciplined, resourceful, canny woman.
The last line may be sentimental but I suppose when I finally did let her read it that was what I wanted her to understand.
Outside Lidl was published this Summer in Skylight47.