Esther Kamkar Poetry Selection:

Poems on Motherhood

Click poem headings below to open and again to close each poem

My Son at Twenty-One

For Daniel

My son says:
I hate you
with all my heart.

You won't be invited to my wedding
in five or six years.
you won't see my children, ever!
I disown you.

I was singing him a lullaby one night
He was barely four
He started to cry:
I'll make a clay statue of you, Mama,
After you die.

Then sobbing:
No! Clay will break
I'll make it out of iron.

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I take my daughter shopping for college
she imagines a life away from me
matches colors to her new body pillow

stripes of purple, white, brown, blue
each as clear, simple and basic
as a mother who loves you

time doesn't pass, it curves around us
the way you go in widening arcs
the whorl of a conch shell

Connections: Four Women in My Family

1. My Mother

When I called to
tell you that
Daniel was born
when we cried together
I felt like the longest
bridge over thirteen thousand
miles, connecting my first born
to my mother
whose first born
had died
forty years before.

2. My Aunt

My Aunt Lady
who rode on horseback
from village to village
to deliver babies
was old with swollen legs
when I went to pay my respects
She said:
A woman should marry
before too long
while her flesh is still edible.

3. My Grandmother

I remember
your white braids
colored at the ends
with deep red henna.

I remember
the golden moons
of your earrings.

I remember you
reading our lips
with the wisdom of
your hundred years.

I remember you
searching through trayfuls
of rice and lentils
looking for tiny stones
your help always wanted.

I remember you
healing your broken old bones
with the power of your will
when you were hit by a car
bringing bread to the poor.

I remember you
loving my name
same as a great aunt
and a distant queen.

4. My Good Aunt

Her flower was
she was childless.

She gave me
a ruby hill
of pomegranate seeds
in a blue bowl

Persian Lilac

For Taleen

Smell of Persian lilac
Hot water
A little person
With me in the tub.
The small head
Pressed against my chest
All four legs stretched out
Ready to talk.
She said:
Men pee standing up
I said:
We women, have two things sticking out
Our breasts
She said:
I already know that
When I grow up
I want to be just like you.
I made her head like a unicorn's
She scrubbed my back
Her hands slippery
Her smell sweet.
I said:
I'm going to help you
Grow up nicely.
She said:
I already know that.

Her back was so straight.

Tamar's Deer-Like Run

For Tamar

Almost every day in the morning
she calls me to braid her hair
in front of our mirror in the hallway.

I stand behind her, we look at each other
in the mirror and I'm told to
make it good, make it tight.

I hold her heavy dark fruit-scented
ponytail, stand on tiptoes to part her hair:
one source and three black waterfalls.

My fingers interlace with hair and listen
to the weaving rhythm:
Under center over under center…

The strand on the right as it passes under
the one in the center says:
Listen, to love and to let go is the only way.

the strand on the left curves under
the one now in the center and says:
Can't we hold for a while before we let go?

And the third strand shifting over
to give up its space says:
The best way is to love and to hold on,
the letting-go part is for the birds.

Under center over under center...
I braid my daughter's hair;
the making of this shiny spinal cord
now dangling between us.

My work is done
when I know that this braid is a good braid
when I kiss the tassel of her hair