One always wonders just how much we should depend on what we know of a poet outside of a given poem, to engage and appreciate that poem. And yet, it must mean something that this tender lyric ode to motherhood comes from an adoptee reflecting on how her life as a writer was shaped by the diligence and prescience of her mother. Tiana Nobile’s poem, “Mother of Letters”, is an elegant thank you note to her mother, and by extension, to the art of mothering.
By Tiana Nobile
For hours my mother hovered over us,
her hand gently guiding mine, her wrist
a helm for my unsteady ship.
I knew how to hold a pencil,
how to grip it between my thumb
and pointer finger, how to lean softly
to avoid a callus. I knew how to form
all my letters perfectly before starting school.
For every birthday, a new notebook
would appear wrapped tightly with a bow.
I would bury my nose inside it
as if the pages would write themselves
with my breath. The pages I'd fill with words
my young tongue was too knotted to express.
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2021 by Tiana Nobile, “Mother of Letters” from Cleave (Hub City Press, 2021.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2022 by The Poetry Foundation.
If you liked what you just read and want more of Our Brew, subscribe to get notified. Just enter your email below.
Chagall's Jew Praying
Jun 02, 2023
Amanda Gorman ‘Gutted’ after Florida School Bans Biden Inauguration Poem
May 26, 2023
Apr 26, 2023