Hand Me Down Lines

For We Write Poems poetry prompt: Kaleidoscope Poem

Helen Olive Gunville - age 16 - 1934

Hand Me Down Lines

My mother is a faraway look, a girl in a photo,
returning to me with centipedes and spiders.
My hands and words unskilled in consolation
and so I play my notes softly.

She prayed each night, counting beads
of the rosary always kept beneath her pillow,
each filigreed orb slipping between silky skin of bent fingers.
My mother is a faraway look, a girl in a photo.

So many images, memories like fine-line cracks
in plastered and painted walls of my mind.
Each day, new ones seemingly forgotten,
returning to me with centipedes and spiders.

Tiny feet crawling swiftly across awareness.
Sometimes causing me to flinch away
from sadness and grief at her passing.
My hands and words unskilled in consolation.

Her blood in my veins, songs we sang together,
words from a journal she tried to keep to please me,
landscapes she painted with caring detail. The laughter, the tears,
and so I play my notes softly.

Elizabeth Crawford  7/31/13

Notes: Found a new to me poet online who wrote a series of poems from The Pablo Neruda Memoirs. His name is J.H. Leonard and his poetry may be found here:

Really liked the idea of a kaleidoscope poem.  Decided to do a Cascade Form Poem using Mr. Leonard’s lines (all in italics) for the first and repeat lines. That first line flooded my mind with memories, beginning with the photo that starts this piece. My mother at age 16. She always reminded us, when looking at this picture, that at that time she weighed 98 pounds and wore a size 41/2 shoe. And that memory came back very clearly when I read the line about centipedes and spiders for some reason.

About 1sojournal

Loves words and language. Dances on paper to her own inner music. Loves to share and keeps several blogs to facilitate that. They can be found here: https://1sojournal.wordpress.com/ https://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/ http://claudetteellinger.wordpress.com/
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6 Responses to Hand Me Down Lines

  1. This is so beautiful and haunting.


  2. Pamela says:

    Oh heavens, Elizabeth. I found this in my email. What a treasure. My mom’s birthday is tomorrow and this brought back so many memories. Truly a beautiful write. Thanks.



  3. Irene says:

    Well, it’s lovely. Haunting repetitions.


  4. Denise says:

    Elizabeth, this is truly “Soul’s Music.” It creates a wonderful sense of happiness and sadness all at once. Well done!


  5. neil reid says:

    very nice Elizabeth. more than interesting (yeah!). curious, why did you choose this cascading form? there’s the integration of that source material, I understand. and that ain’t bad (not meaning that). but read your poem without any of that source material. to my ear (pardon?) it feels stronger that way, flying just on the wings you gave yourself (really really).

    that also leaves out the word “mother” and lets the reader find this for themselves as the poem progresses, blood to blood, which I find all the more subtle, keeping it quiet that way. (guess I just like your words so much, the other text feels distracting, unnecessary. you got to a very good expression that could be left to its own – more more than strong enough.

    (and pardon again) but what you think if that last phrase, “the laughter, the tears” was left out? isn’t that already implied? besides it’s just enough “mystery” to raise an eyebrow without that bit? thank you for playing! thanks for letting us read your poem. neil


  6. julespaige says:

    I like how we all deal with the same prompt in a different way. While visiting some relatives this summer I recieved photos of my own mother (birth mother) who passes away when I was young. Photos of her as a child. And there is no one left to describe or explain the emotions that they may have held. So I can only guess.

    Thanks for your visit and kind words. I’m still trying to catch up from being away with limited net access and computer time.


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