I’m not sure if I wrote these poems

You know that endless trail of Mother’s Day handprints, inkblot paintings, tissue paper bouquets, and phallic-like animal drawings your kids have brought home from school that prompted you to consider buying stock in Rubbermaid® ?

Well, I’m here to tell you all those trips to Target you’ve made for more storage containers and fridge magnets to preserve this glimpse into their poignant, Van Gogh-ish childhood will one day be appreciated by your children’s future midlife nostalgic selves.

insidecovermushrooms-e1427055663102When I graduated from college, my mom handed over all the loot she’d saved of mine up until that point.

Keep in mind she had nine children and had to be selective. So what I received didn’t amount to the U-haul trailer full of bins I’ll be passing on to my kids. But it was enough to pack a three-ring binder.

Until the other day, when I came across the binder while attempting to declutter my home office, I hadn’t opened it for years. So I decided to take a break and tip my toes into the fountain of youth.

My attention was particularly drawn to a mini-booklet of 12 handwritten poems tacked together between two pieces of wallpaper scraps in a mushroom motif. There mustn’t have been much of a selection of paper because those closest to me know I have a seriously deep-seated fear of the creepy fungi that some people actually saute and eat!

As I flipped through the pages, thoroughly immersed in this literary masterpiece that must’ve made my mom so proud, it suddenly occurred to me (cue: old-school record scratch) that perhaps—I didn’t actually write these poems.

Why? Because:

a.) They’re good.
b.) I remembered that sometimes teachers had us copy down poems from the blackboard  to practice our penmanship or to use for a mother’s day or father’s day art project.
c.) Although my name is on the inside cover, there’s no actual byline on the individual poems.

But there are also credible reasons to believe I am, in fact, the author of these poems, such as:

1.) I used to write poems.
2.) I am the daughter of a poet.
3.) I went on to become an English major.
4.) When I showed it to my 82-year-old mom the other day, she said she doesn’t remember, but that she probably would’ve saved it only if I wrote the poems myself.
5.) And, perhaps the most convincing reason to believe I wrote them is that each one echoes some resemblance to my own life. Let’s take this one for example:

A person smiles,

Another person smiles in return,
And soon . . .
Everyone smiles.

 I wholeheartedly agree. When someone smiles at me, a real smile that is matched with kindness in the eyes,  it sometimes takes my breath away and every time it inspires me to pass it on.  But I realize you all probably could say the same. So let’s take a look at another one.

Babies’ knees crawl.
My knees climb and sometimes fall.
Mother’s knees make a lap.
Father’s knees are tall.
Fish don’t have any knees at all.

Well, yes, these things are all true. I am a clutz. My mom’s knees make a lap. My dad’s knees are quite tall, even now at the age of 84. And the fish from where I’m from don’t have knees as far as I know. The evidence is building wouldn’t you say? Let’s take a look at one more.

I had a dream last night.
I dreamed I had to pick a mother out.
I had to choose a father, too.
At first, I wondered what to do.
There were so many there, it seemed.
Short and tall and thin and stout.
But just before I sprung awake,
I knew what parents I would take.
And this surprised me and made me glad:
They were the ones I always had.

I concur!  Although my parents are far from perfect, were not able to give me everything my heart craved, and once assigned me the job of vacuuming up the mushrooms that were growing in our damp basement due to an unusual amount of rain, I would absolutely choose them if given a choice from all the other ones. But would I have thought to use the word sprung or stout back then? Highly unlikely.

If you’ve ever seen any of these poems elsewhere, by all means, please let me know. I’ll be ecstatic to give credit to where credit is due. Just don’t tell my mom!

*P.S. Since posting this in 2015 (before anyone knew I had a blog), I have learned the title of the dream/parent poem was authored by Gwendolyn Brooks and it is titled “Andre”  (thanks to Crystal Cook). See Crystal’s comment below.

Julie Jo Severson is mom to a teen, tween, and pretween and emerging freelance writer with two desks.  Click here to learn more about what’s inside this desk. Click here to view her other recent posts.

About Julie Jo Severson

Julie Jo Severson, former PR girl, is now a freelance writer, journalist, editor, and lost-and-found attendant for two teens and a tween. This is where she doodles about past, present, future clinking glasses and making peace.

4 comments on “I’m not sure if I wrote these poems

  1. What a perfect and precious keepsake . . . My mom saved many of my special gifts to her as well. This made me smile 🙂 I have found a few poems in some of my old memories I wonder if I wrote or not as well. I have seen the one about parents before, I believe it was written by Gwendolyn Brooks, and I pinky promise, I’ll never tell your mom!!

  2. Crystal, thank you for your comment and for stopping by. But most of all, thanks for giving credit to where credit is due for the parent poem–Gwendolyn Brooks! Thanks to you, I also now know the title of the poem. “Andre.” I had the pleasure of reading a few more of Gwendolyn’s poems this morning, such as this one:

    The Bean Eaters – Poem by Gwendolyn Brooks

    They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.
    Dinner is a casual affair.
    Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
    Tin flatware.

    Two who are Mostly Good.
    Two who have lived their day,
    But keep on putting on their clothes
    And putting things away.

    And remembering . . .
    Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,
    As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that
    is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths,
    tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.

  3. Oh my gosh this was ADORABLE to read, Julie!! Reading those precious poems and seeing your sweet handwriting and the love oozing from your childhood gift, just made my Mother’s Day.And I think that last poem was heart grabbing- and to think you even chose it to copy makes me smile. <3

    I'm so glad you re-published this. I love that Crystal was at the ready two years ago, when it first came out. She's a gem. <3

  4. Your U-Haul trailer full of bins comment made me smile, Julie. In my closet there are two boxes stuffed full of my children’s notes and drawings that I deemed worthy of keeping. Dreadful mother that I am, the rest of the creations were oohed and aahed over and then placed on top of the fridge, out of sight. If within a week, neither of my two mentioned them again they were pitched. Now after reading this lovely post of yours, I’m hoping I didn’t pitch any treasures… Whoopsies.

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