Mother's Day

Mother's Day poems help celebrate all motherhood has to offer.
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Mother's Day Poems That Celebrate The Complexity Of Motherhood

Because motherhood isn’t easy to describe.

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If the internet is to be believed, all a mom wants on Mother's Day is breakfast in bed and gifts that give her much-needed pampering — but I feel like there’s more complexity to this day than that, and these nine Mother’s Day poems celebrate all those little details of motherhood if you’re looking for some inspiration for thoughtful Mother’s Day gifts this year.

Mother’s Day is not always a day of pampering (though that’s great sometimes, too), but it should definitely be a day of recognition and thanks for all the things mom does that often go unnoticed. And sometimes Mother’s Day is even a day of remembrance — whether it’s in remembrance of a mom or grandmother who is no longer with us, or even a child — depending on the family. The truth is, the experience of motherhood, as well as our relationships with our own mothers, is more complex than any social media portrayal. But to be honest, I also wouldn’t mind being pampered and not having to do a single thing all day on May 10 this year — in addition to being gifted one of these poems and having my family acknowledge my hard work.

Some of these poems offer the type of sweet sentiments you can find in the card aisle, while others touch on experiences like miscarriage that are part of the spectrum of motherhood but are often ignored. Some of these poets are mothers writing about their children, while others are adult children remembering or mourning their mothers. If you’re looking for some poem inspiration to celebrate the moms you love, simply share the poems that speak to your feelings and remind you of the women in your life. If you're looking for an original (and inexpensive) gift for mom this year, you can print one of these poems out on nice paper and place it in a store-bought frame. Then your mother will be reminded of your love for her all year long.

1

"Morning Song" by Sylvia Plath

One of the best-known female poets of the 20th century, Plath's work often described her experiences as a wife, mother, and daughter in frank terms. In this poem, she celebrates the birth of her second child. In the last three stanzas she writes about waking in the middle of the night to listen to her newborn breathe and respond to his cries. Whether you're a brand new mom or your own babies are long grown, this classic experience of new motherhood will return to your mind immediately.

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.

The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry

Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.

In a drafty museum, your nakedness

Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I’m no more your mother

Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow

Effacement at the wind’s hand.

All night your moth-breath

Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:

A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral

In my Victorian nightgown.

Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try

Your handful of notes; The clear vowels rise like balloons.

2

"Hours Days Years Unmoor Their Orbits" by Rachel Zucker

Contemporary poet Rachel Zucker is known for her funny and wise depictions of marriage, motherhood, family, and daily life. In this short poem she evokes the love and nostalgia of remembering an older child's early days. Consider it the nuanced version of "the days are long, but the years are short."

tonight I’m cleaning baby portobellos

for you, my young activist

wiping the dirty tops with a damp cloth

as carefully as I used to rinse raspberries

for you to adorn your fingertips

before eating each blood-red prize

these days you rarely look me in the eye

& your long shagged hair hides your smile

I don’t expect you to remember or

understand the many ways I’ve kept you

alive or the life my love for you

has made me live

3

"Mother And Daughter" by Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton, who was a friend of Plath's and also known for writing "confessional" poetry, describes the empty nest feeling of her child turning 18, filtered through the lens of a mother/daughter relationship.

Linda, you are leaving

your old body now,

It lies flat, an old butterfly,

all arm, all leg, all wing,

loose as an old dress.

I reach out toward it but

my fingers turn to cankers

and I am motherwarm and used,

just as your childhood is used.

Question you about this

and you hold up pearls.

Question you about this

and you pass by armies.

Question you about this —

you with your big clock going,

its hands wider than jackstraws —

and you'll sew up a continent.

Now that you are eighteen

I give you my booty, my spoils,

my Mother & Co. and my ailments.

Question you about this

and you'll not know the answer —

the muzzle at the oxygen,

the tubes, the pathways,

the war and the war's vomit.

Keep on, keep on, keep on,

carrying keepsakes to the boys,

carrying powders to the boys,

carrying, my Linda, blood to

the bloodletter.

Linda, you are leaving

your old body now.

You've picked my pocket clean

and you've racked up all my

poker chips and left me empty

and, as the river between us

narrows, you do calisthenics,

that womanly leggy semaphore.

Question you about this

and you will sew me a shroud

and hold up Monday's broiler

and thumb out the chicken gut.

Question you about this

and you will see my death

drooling at these gray lips

while you, my burglar, will eat

fruit and pass the time of day.

4

"Frequently Asked Questions: #9" by Camille T. Dungy

Here's one for mothers of only children who are tired of being asked when they will have more.

Don’t you think you should have another child?

This girl I have is hardtack and dried lime

and reminds me, every groggy morning,

what a miracle it must have been

when outfitters learned to stock ship holds

with that one long lasting fruit. How the sailors’ tongues,

landing on its bitter brilliance, must have cursed

the curse of joy, as I did that morning the burst

of water brought my sweet girl into our lives.

But, already, she hates me sometimes.

Like I have sometimes hated my mother and she

must have sometimes hated her own.

After weeks at sea, the limes would desiccate and the meal

fill with worms. They would have eaten

anyway, the sailors, but taken no pleasure from anything.

Or taken no pleasure from anything but

the fact of their sustained lives. Which is to say it is all

I can do, most days, not to swallow her up and curse her maker, I swear. Like I have not

sworn since the morning she was born.

5

"Mother's Day" by David Young

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Besides recognition from their children, mothers love expressions of gratitude from their partners. This simple and sweet poem conveys a spouse's appreciation for the mother of his children and all she does for the family.

I see her doing something simple, paying bills,

or leafing through a magazine or book,

and wish that I could say, and she could hear,

that now I start to understand her love

for all of us, the fullness of it.

It burns there in the past, beyond my reach,

a modest lamp.

6

"To My Mother" by Edgar Allan Poe

Mother-in-laws love displays of gratitude, too. In this poem, Edgar Allan Poe shows his sweet side with a moving tribute to his MIL.

Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,

The angels, whispering to one another,

Can find, among their burning terms of love,

None so devotional as that of “Mother,”

Therefore by that dear name I long have called you—

You who are more than mother unto me,

And fill my heart of hearts, where

Death installed you

In setting my Virginia's spirit free.

My mother — my own mother, who died early,

Was but the mother of myself; but you

Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,

And thus are dearer than the mother I knew

By that infinity with which my wife

Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.

7

"For My Mother" by May Sarton

In a tribute to her late mother, May Sarton remembers the characteristics that made her mom unique.

Once more

I summon you

Out of the past

With poignant love,

You who nourished the poet

And the lover.

I see your gray eyes

Looking out to sea

In those Rockport summers,

Keeping a distance

Within the closeness

Which was never intrusive

Opening out

Into the world.

And what I remember

Is how we laughed

‘Til we cried

Swept into merriment

Especially when times were hard.

And what I remember

Is how you never stopped creating

And how people sent me

Dresses you had designed

With rich embroidery

In brilliant colors

Because they could not bear

To give them away

Or cast them aside.

I summon you now

Not to think of

The ceaseless battle

With pain and ill health,

The frailty and the anguish.

No, today I remember

The creator,

The lion-hearted.

8

"The Courage That My Mother Had" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Comparing a physical inheritance with the trait of her mother's she most admires, Edna St. Vincent Millay celebrates brave moms everywhere.

The courage that my mother had

Went with her, and is with her still:

Rock from New England quarried;

Now granite in a granite hill.

The golden brooch my mother wore

She left behind for me to wear;

I have no thing I treasure more:

Yet, it is something I could spare.

Oh, if instead she’d left to me

The thing she took into the grave!—

That courage like a rock, which she

Has no more need of, and I have.

9

“A Mother’s Love” by Kathryn Ann

This poem by Kathryn Ann could be a beautiful print to give mom on behalf of the child(ren). It simply celebrates everything moms do for their families, and describes things moms do that often go unnoticed. The fact that mothers become more and more beautiful to their children with each passing day is an important thing to note, because many of us feel like many parts of ourselves take a backseat to everyone else while we long to look like we did before we became mothers. But to our family, we will always be beautiful. And we should also look at ourselves with that same love and admiration.

A mother gives her children

Stepping stones to the stars

Her love is unconditional

Her heart has no bars

A mother teaches her children

To be confident and bold

Her special love for her children

More valuable than silver or gold

A mother picks up her children

And wipes away life's tears

She scares away monsters in the night

And silences life's fears

A mother celebrates

Her children's accomplishments in life

She hurts and cries with them

When life brings times of strife

A mother shares her love freely

With her tender loving way

She grows more beautiful

To her children with each passing day

Mother, I'm grateful

for all these things that you do

And on this special Mother's Day

I want you to know how much I love you

10

“Sacred” By Stephanie Paige Cole

For those of us who have experienced pregnancy loss, you’re still a mother, too, even if your child isn’t in your arms. This poem reinforces the feeling of what it means to be a mother of loss.

Your life began and

ended within my womb I

am a sacred space

because of you