Thursday, October 25, 2007


(Maggie in 1955, age 5 months)

On this day 53 years ago, I was conceived.

It was my parents' eighth wedding anniversary. They went out to dinner, then dancing, had a few drinks, came back home tiddly, and...

Mama said she knew the next morning that she was pregnant. Claimed to know I was a girl and what I'd look like. They'd been trying for six years.

It's nice to be born wanted.

In 1981, I wrote the first of my Mama poems. I can recall clearly when the first lines came to me, as I was driving a delivery route down Church from Noe Valley -- on the hill at 19th, overlooking Dolores Park, I stopped for two minutes to write down the beginning of that poem. I sent it to her for Mother's Day.

When she died in 1984, I found the page folded, in her purse, opened so many times the folds were coming apart.

Thank you for this life, Mama.


Mama gardened
Never hardened
Never faded
Never shaded
As she watered,
So she daughtered, mothered,
Taught me how to grow.

Strong brown hands that smelled of dirt
Made me better when I hurt
Kissed my bobos, rubbed my stubbed toes,
Cooled my burnings, eased the turnings
Poppy, pansy, paintbrush, peony
“Come heah, sit down on my knee, honey
Tell me what’s the mattah”

Mama knew of Bread and Roses
Long before I sang the song
Mama grew a summer garden
Made the money stretch along
Grew the squash and new potatoes
Canned the corn and sauce tomatoes
But in winter, it was beans
“Eat your beans, child”
Voice sounds mean
Eating beans till can’t no more
Then I’d dare: “Mom, are we poor?”
“No!” she’d say
and in the way
She looked away, I knew she lied.

So I watched her hoe the rows
Bring in greens and cook ‘em slow
But nearby grew four-o-clocks
Bachelor buttons, daisies, phlox
Oleander and poinsettia
“When you’re older, things be bettah”
Mama, I know why you lied.

Mama dug and found the bulbs
In every inch of last year’s yard
Mama told me I was special,
Told me I could take the hard
Mama, Mama, I have loved you
Every memory of my life
Even when we spark and battle
Shake our world till our hearts rattle
I am always holding on
The best that I know how

© Maggie Jochild, printed in Americas Review No. 14, Spring 2004


shadocat said...

That was beautiful. What a wonderful tribute to your Mom.

Blue said...

I'm thinking of your mom, Mags. And you.

Ickidy bicky widdle boo-boo Mags! Oo, da widdle baybee! You is! You is!

Sorry, lost control there. Ahem. You sure were a cute baby, too.

Maggie Jochild said...

I am surely a mama's girl.

And Blue, you made me crow out loud. Then I drooled on myself, but that can't be helped...