Her Mama’s Gift

First of April, first day of National Poetry Month.  Last year I spent the whole month with Lucille Clifton.  Day after day reading and sharing her amazing voice, her light and power.  This year I want to spend it with Ruth Forman.  I met her last summer at VONA.  I don’t know her, but my impression of her is a fierce, gentle, gracious and graceful soul.  And when she read at the end of the week? That was it.  Full-blown crush.  Her work is amazing.  I bought her book, Prayers Like Shoes, and that’s what I’m going to share from this month.

Prayers Like Shoes
— Ruth Forman

I wear prayers like shoes

pull em on quiet each morning
take me through the uncertain day

don’t know
what might knock me off course

sit up in bed
pull on the right
then the left
before shower before teeth

my mama’s gift
to walk me through this life

she wore strong ones
the kind steady your ankles
i know
cause when her man left/ her children
gone/ her eldest son without goodbye
they the only ones keep her

i saw her

mama passed on
some things to me
ma smile   sense a discipline
subtle behind

but best she passed on
girl you go to God
and get you some good shoes
cause this life ain’t steady ground

now i don’t wear hers
you take em with you you know
but i suspect they made by the same company
pull em on each morning
first the right     then the left

best piece a dress
i got

See what I mean?


Last year, I also spent a month on my own poems.  Two years ago it was the tanka.  Last year it was the (painfully challenging) rhyme royal.  This year?  I’m not sure.  The tanka is still the form that comes most easily to me, but I’m feeling compelled to try something new.  Raivenne mentioned the nove otto last year, so for today I’m test-driving it.  I can already see it will make me as crazy as the rhyme royal.  The form of this one is nine eight-syllable lines with a rhyme scheme of a/a/c/b/b/c/d/d/c.  Yes, as much as I hate writing rhyming poems, I’ve picked another rhyming form.

Finding this mind I left sleeping,
dusty, half-forgotten. Keeping
my thoughts, my dreams, my heart in place.
April’s my time to remember
this strange singing voice, to whisper
about love or pain, to embrace
myself, a girl who dares to write
poems. Thick and heavy, without light
or magic. Words fumbling for grace.

Yeah, definitely going to give me as much trouble as the rhyme royal.  Maybe the nove otto will just be for today.  I haven’t pretended at poetry since last April, and I find I am rustier than rusty.  I may slip back to my beloved tanka sooner rather than later …

8 thoughts on “Her Mama’s Gift

  1. That’s so cool… I might take up your challenge but one thing’s for sure, I’m going to write something like a poem a day. I did that last year and I’m back on my blog and at our iAnthology with a photo a day…

    Let’s rock on together and plan to meet soon face to face,


    1. Hey, Bonnie– Wish I could follow your lead and do a photo a day, but I just don’t pull my camera out often enough. However, thinking of photos is making me remember that I still haven’t posted any of my pictures from Jamaica! Time to get to work on that.


  2. Lovely poem by Forman. I have not read/re-read anything of hers in quite the while. It will be nice to revisit her words through you.

    Much enjoyed your nove otto. I have never mastered carrying my thoughts to finish mid line, especially when rhyming. Its one of the reasons I avoid punctuation when writing poems. “Words fumbling for grace” is pretty much how I feel when writing also.

    I was distracted on the first and missed Day One of NaPoWrMo, but I did post late (okay very late), yesterday. I will post something a little later today that I think you’ll like.

    Looking forward to reading more of Forman and especially you.


    1. I really struggle with the rhyming, something about it annoys me somehow … not when other people do it, only when I do. Carry my thoughts past the rhyme helps me downplay the rhyme, which makes them easier for me somehow.

      I so very much loved your double tanka! Thanks so much for introducing me to the idea … and for dedicating that wonderful poem to me!


  3. I like your poem! You’re brave — I never even try to write poetry.

    Thank you for sharing Ruth’s poem. Reading those words sparks all that same magic I felt when we heard her read at VONA last year. I remember thinking, “This woman is a goddess,” and bowing down in my spirit accordingly.


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