e-mail us


My mother’s closet
To save each other
from going through my mother’s closet,
my sister and I each thought to do it --
but not yet.

Together, in the end, we learned
how hats and coats and dresses could
assault the heart,
like this bent thimble
I keep beside my bed.

Quietly we worked.
One cotton housecoat, too worn to give away,
kept us standing there.
And what I never learned from history or religion
I learned here: how cloth becomes relic, and
more: what a relic means.

But my mother’s treasure -- not clothes,
nor the diamonds, gold, and cameos
she gave us, sons and daughters, years before --
we found shelved above her coats.

Still she kept hidden what she bought for holidays,
though we were, all seven, grown and gone.
After her October death we found within her closet
a paper tablecloth for Halloween, new inside its plastic,
crying out in orange and black
of all our apple-ducking years
and all the party games she ran for us and friends
at each October’s end.

The businesswoman that she was
for more than half her life
blurs beside this mother in our home
even though we saw her reach to others
through her shop, her sales, her ready coffee pot
and chairs and listening ear.

At eighty, though, she stayed home again.
At eighty-seven, she still loved children in the house.
With Dee and Christopher, grandsons of her nurse,
she watched cartoons. “You can change the channel
if you want,” I heard her tell them on my last visit

There were always children there: neighbors’ children,
grandchildren, the kids of those who came to pray
the rosary with her every day.

No wonder we found paper birthday hats
and even Easter bunnies waiting for another spring.
The best of bunnies we gave to Christopher and Dee.
For myself, I kept a little Book of Dogs, an Easter bunny,
a well-worn robe, and, best of all,
(though I never sew)
this tiny thimble bent to fit her finger.

-- Mary Zoghby-Haffner
Kennesaw, Ga.

A business letter-sized envelope
the address neatly typed
and, in the upper left, a return address
neatly typed
But in the lower left
stamped in red
The loss of dignity
stamped in red
It says, “You are ours --
lest you thought
you belonged to yourself --
with this red stamp
you belong to us.”

So the recipient of such mail
may pause
to examine the red stamp --
before seeing much else.
The recipient may pause
and hold the envelope a while
before opening it.

Still the red letters beckon
the red letters pulsate like a neon sign
they say, “You are ours.”
And the recipient rips open the envelope
and reads the contents, neatly typed,
Except for the signature
The only mark of human hand,
But enough to say,
“I am God’s.”

-- Amie Ilva Tatem
Staten Island, N.Y.

The Iconoclasm of Mice

Mouse dung falls from overhead on books
I’ve made into icons in my writing house.

All waste unsettles me, challenges me
to eradicate it. Yet I crouch in my brain ashamed

of thinking of killing, of how I will do it.
I mount the wooden ladder I use

to prune trees in another season
and place the bait

wondering does the Creator notice
what I do while her furry back is turned.

-- Judith Robbins
Whitefield, Maine

2002 in Poetry

2001 in Poetry

2000 in Poetry

1999 in Poetry

Poems should be previously unpublished and limited to about 50 lines and preferably typed. Please send poems to NCR POETRY, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City MO 64111-1203. Or via e-mail to poetry@natcath.org or fax (816) 968-2280. Please include your street address, city, state, zip and daytime telephone number. NCR offers a small payment for poems we publish, so please include your Social Security number.

National Catholic Reporter, November 01, 2002