This Poem was Submitted By: Mell W. Morris On Date: 2004-01-09 19:24:26 . . . Click Here To Mail this Poem to a Friend!

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A Life Sentence

Dawn, the launching of another day, the lush grass a coverlet of umber dew; light awakening whispery shadows, glowing in susurrant, penumbral places. My mother's face at the window like a full moon. Standing outside, I gaze at the framing of her eerie visage, then at the whole repository of prolix pain, my childhood domicile. Youth was time served, a mandatory sentence with no early release granted. Those years with eddies of meaning gleaned from Mother's dismissive gestures: her lack of care semaphored in an arms-length stance, a constant sardonic commentary, by her oft- repeated put-downs, by a chronicity of frowns. Never a light touch, the slightest caress, no soft words of compassion. Now it's my fate to serve another sentence here, assisting her with details of earthly departure. These days when I walk outside for a glimpse of beauty in her garden, I sense Mother's stare and her willing my return to her lair. I feel her reach as an undertow, a desperate go at pulling me to her side and along for the ride as she leaves for a final unknown destination.

Copyright © January 2004 Mell W. Morris

Additional Notes:
For C.L.D. and all who care for elderly parents.

This Poem was Critiqued By: Elaine Marie Phalen On Date: 2004-02-08 20:13:41
Critiquer Rating During Critique: 9.87500
Mell, this is a powerful, bitter and authentic piece. The voice is so sure and true. Your characteristic internal rhyme and attention to sonics are incorporated as skilfully as ever. You just keep getting better and better, and that's saying a lot because you've started out at such a high level! Your writing style is what I'd call very dense in terms of the imagery and the diction. There are layers and layers, carefully applied, like color to an oil canvas. This style is vivid and vital. It suits your theme so well. I'm not really critiquing as it's too late but I had to tell you this. I've cared for my adoptive mom, who lives with me, since 1986; she will be 91 on February 11, has had two strokes, broken hip, pneumonia, cardiac problems, you name it. She was a dominating force in my youth. I find it hard to reconcile that persona with the frail and compliant wraith she has since become. The contrasts between what we knew as children and our current realities are, indeed, both ironic and unsettling. Yet there are burdens on both ends. "Youth was time served", and now time is being served again. Your title speaks a whole history of this relationship. All of us who are caregivers will see a part of ourselves in this. Congratulations on a win well earned. Brenda

This Poem was Critiqued By: Jennifer j Hill On Date: 2004-02-07 18:49:15
Critiquer Rating During Critique: 9.90476
Hi Mell, I know this is late with it being the last day of the contest, but I really want to comment on this poem. You bring up with a very important issue. It's no surprise as to why this poem is so popular. It brings a problem to light that many women are dealing with now and it does it in a way that helps us either sympathize with them or relate to the experience. "A life Sentence" is an apt title for this piece. A title that makes us know right from the beginning, this is no picnic. The first stanza has a bit of surreal flavor to it, what with the whispery shadows and Mother's face, the full moon, dimming at dawn, and the language like "susurrant, penumbral places." that you have used. The scene is set to give us a creepy feeling. And the feeling gets more overbearing (alot like Mom) as we read stanza two and three with the description of dear old Mom. It's an all too familiar scenerio these days (especially because we live longer now)with the daughter feeling the pangs of obligation and lack of being loved. It is obvious that she is wondering whether Mom is going up or down when she passes, since Mom hasn't exactly practiced the Love Commandement. Sad, isn't it. Your use of fresh language, rhyme and assonance all make this a memorable poem. At this point I am planning to Mother-sit for the first person I can find in this situation. Seems as though she would benefit a little time away. Thanks for an eye opening poem. Blessings, Jennfier
This Poem was Critiqued By: Jordan Brendez Bandojo On Date: 2004-02-07 08:40:18
Critiquer Rating During Critique: 9.90000
Dear Mell, I should critique the number 1 poem before the proclamation is up. This one is really worthy to be on top as this is a quality poem in terms of theme, linguistics and composition. You always have a winning piece every month to date. And we're very proud of you. We look at you in awe because of your poetic ingenuity and quality craftmanship. You're such a prolific poet! This piece is so poignant yet it is glowing with splendid language one would admire. As always, it is your trademark. The theme is very significant as this scenario is happening to our society today, sad to say. I like the simile you used: "My mother's face at the window like a full moon." It reinforces the good visual that one can SEE it! Really a good poem, worthy of wreath of laurel! Bravo! Congratulations in advance, Mell. Can't wait to read your submissions next month! Jordan
This Poem was Critiqued By: Erzahl Leo M. Espino On Date: 2004-02-07 04:12:41
Critiquer Rating During Critique: 9.71429
Hi Mell, Your words move me a thousand miles! Bringing me to a place called “emotions” unknown to my busy days but very familiar with my childhood days. Oh, how you remind me those days…on how I can relate with your story here. “from Mother's dismissive gestures: her lack of care semaphored in an arms-length stance, a constant sardonic commentary, by her oft- repeated put-downs, by a chronicity of frowns. Never a light touch, the slightest caress, no soft words of compassion.” --- This is very clear to me, almost the same. My mom like your mom is very hard to please – whatever I do, whatever achievements, I cannot meet the standards she set. They often says, this is the way they discipline their children. But for a child this is “A Life Sentence”. I can tell my own stories in great details but my conscience tells me not to. Your stories and reactions in “hidden words” already pictured it. You and I could only understand and interpret it. I am amazed on the strength and courage you have on sharing this sensitive issues. Thank you, now, I felt I have an allied. “Now it's my fate to serve another sentence here, assisting her with details of earthly departure.” --- Another chapter repeating itself but in different situation. I find it peaceful to her and to yours Mell. “These days when I walk outside for a glimpse of beauty in her garden, I sense Mother's stare and her willing my return to her lair. I feel her reach as an undertow, a desperate go at pulling me to her side and along for the ride as she leaves for a final unknown destination.” --- And a reconciliation of both hearts – even for the last time. The more I dissect this poem, the more I see beauty in here. There are a lot of other beauties I find too, like: “My mother's face at the window like a full moon.” And even the first line intro is already an attention grabber: “Dawn, the launching of another day, the lush grass a coverlet of umber dew; light awakening whispery shadows, glowing in susurrant, penumbral places.” --- You know how much I enjoy this because of its haiku-like / nature-inspired imageries. Unforgettable site! Jaw-dropping! Thank you Mell for another outstanding piece! Please don’t you ever get tired on submitting award-winning entries! Abundant in excellence! This deserves number 1! As always, Erzahl :)
This Poem was Critiqued By: Debbie L Fischer On Date: 2004-02-02 19:31:22
Critiquer Rating During Critique: 9.60714
Mell, How sad that some experience the lack of love by a parent as you so vividly describe here. Her lack of affection, dismissive gestures, things that will never be forgotten as those things do leave marks on souls. One of my fav lines was, Youth was time served,a mandatory sentence with no early release. To me, that spoke volumes of the pain and unhappiness experienced by the child not cared for. Then the day comes where one finds themselves tending to the mothers needs as they await her final destination. As always, your wording is wonderful and you continue to amaze me with your talents. Anyone dealing with these issues will certainly relate to this poem. Deb:)
This Poem was Critiqued By: Sherri L Smith On Date: 2004-02-02 14:04:33
Critiquer Rating During Critique: 9.43333
Dear Mell, This poem could have been written by me. Although my Mother has passed away, I still feel the pain and can still her the "voice" in my head telling me that I can't do this, and I can't do that, and why am I wasting time on trying to write, and there are other things I should be doing besides reading a book. I had 16 months of constant care of my Mom, she battled for all it was worth, and only about 2 weeks before she died, did she even begin to talk to me like equal. She rarely showed any affection and only at the end of her life could she even say "I love you." from Mother's dismissive gestures: her lack of care semaphored in an arms-length stance, a constant sardonic commentary, by her oft- repeated put-downs, by a chronicity of frowns. Never a light touch, the slightest caress, no soft words of compassion. All of the above could have been said about my Mother, and a few other things as well. My heart goes out to you and others who are caring for elderly parents. It is hard enough when your childhood was happy, but in other circumstances, it is very very hard. Thanks for sharing this with us, I do find that writing about it does help. I will keep you in my prayers... Love, Sherri
This Poem was Critiqued By: Regis L Chapman On Date: 2004-01-21 17:46:42
Critiquer Rating During Critique: 9.00000
Whew! That was some poem. I am struck by the general sadness that is the looking backward into memories rather forgotten. What a chance to face them, however! What a strength to face such a thing, and what irony! I am certain that this is not lost on her, unless the problem is some mental one, and hope that she learns for next time around. Karma is an amazing thing! This for me was a big poem, with a lot to think about and ponder. Very well done. My ex girlfriend was caring for her mother, and it seemed that she both gained and lost from her newly found power over her previously distant mother. I am not sure how that is done, to be honest, I am not sure I am unselfish enough to manage it, try as I might. And even though I may be reletively improved, this poem has made me wonder about that. It's a nice perspective to see, so thanks for that. Also thanks for the further lookups. I have had quite a few of those today and it's quite awesome. Great words, and they fit nicely as well, to which I must bow before you. I also like the "chronicity" as a different description from perpetual or other terms. It has a tone which fits this poem very nicely. Leave it up to poets to expand my mind in so many ways in one poem! Thanks, REEG!
This Poem was Critiqued By: Joanne M Uppendahl On Date: 2004-01-13 13:15:23
Critiquer Rating During Critique: 10.00000
Mell: This melancholy work seems a haunting commentary on the effect of one person of undisputed effect on the speaker - her mother. It is a cautionary tale, I think, for those still in relationship with offspring or a mother. These effects we have on one another, the cross-generational duties and dreads, afflict all of us at one time or another. In this work, there is no attempt to 'pretty-up' or rationalize the behavior and outlook of the parent, but instead a rendering of her as she is experienced by the speaker as disdainful and derisive. And yet, the circumstances call for compassionate response now that, so to speak, the shoe is "on the other foot." "Another day" is pronounced in a weary tone, though the scene is luxuriant and lovely; someone's presence overwhelms the surroundings: "My mother's face at the window like a full moon." Although the scene is only partially lighted, we glimpse intense beauty which contrasts with the "eerie visage" in the window, "like a full moon." The notion of the full moon has long been associated with lunacy, with hospital emergency rooms filled with accident victims and the inebriated. Our sense of the moon's "too-muchness" comes through with clarity in the early part of this work, highlighting the mother's persona as overbearing -- "prolix pain" gives an unmistakable impression of drawn-out misery, signaling the reader with the repeated plosives that the speaker has taken blows which are still resounding. And "time served" is far from the idyllic childhood that all children deserve but few receive. Hard g's in "granted/gleaned/gestures" that there were hard knocks aplenty - not necessarily of the physical type, but ones which lacked softness and kindness -- "no soft words of compassion" says it completely vividly. And "a chronicity of frowns" is eloquently phrased. We are there with the speaker, but we don't want to be there any longer than necessary. It is a sad commentary because all children crave love and tenderness, and deserve same. Now it's my fate to serve another sentence here, assisting her with details of earthly departure. These days when I walk outside for a glimpse of beauty in her garden, I sense Mother's stare and her willing my return to her lair. I feel her reach as an undertow, a desperate go at pulling me to her side and along for the ride as she leaves for a final unknown destination. Bleakness, loss of hope and a surrendering to despair seem overwhelming here. The mother's imminent death seems to make her want to hold her daughter captive, as if in maintaining a grasping hold she could forestall the future. It is clear that she must feel inwardly empty and is attempting to force a kind of "oneness" with her daughter which is more like an imprisonment. The last lines leave us with the impression that the speaker will be released from extreme bondage when the mother "leaves for a final unknown destination" but there is also more than a hint of concern for the mother's ultimate destiny, at least in this reader's opinion. It is impossible, this poem seems to show us, to separate yearning for what never was and never can be from mourning, relief, guilt, resentment and underlying, love unreturned. It is harder to let go of those who never fully acknowledged us yet helped to frame the very being that we have become. Excellent writing on an agonizing dilemma. I am torn between wanting to offer comfort and reading the poem as a poem, as well as recalling those in my life who left a legacy of yearning for what can never be. As always, your poetry reaches the far places in my heart. Brava! All my best, Joanne
This Poem was Critiqued By: Joanne Duval Morgan On Date: 2004-01-13 08:38:15
Critiquer Rating During Critique: 10.00000
My Lord Mell, this cuts close to the bone, your descriptive of youth captured by a place and time, one would think that eventually a measure of person freedom and space would offer respite, but as your poems that's not the way it works, does it, that inborne compassion, the gentle hope for some small gesture of an acceptance that nver comes, but standing in principle based on a love never acknowledged, we are and become cative audiences. The difference between youth and adulthood, is the realization and understand all the drawbacks that eventually turn us into the adults we become, and we ride out the storm of a standoffish parents, and really understand movation, we are all products of our upbringing, and never lose sight of the compassion and understanding that to ultimately live in peace and tranquility means sacrifice. To me this poem is proof positive, that regardless of family there is always disfunction, but we become trapped, and respond accordingly to the needs of an elderly parent, who can't change ways, yet we stick it out, hoping to the end there is an intimate time that the parent acknowledges the cause and effect. Some make the the ultimate ytansition, some never do. You write from the heart, you've dealt realistically with circumstance, never the less that form of rejection sometimes is never resolved, one wonders at the thought process, the awareness that should be a part of a life package, why some get it, and others can't break down the barriers of their own past prisioner status. The child makes the gesture, the child eventually will be able to be at peace, all lives end, some end more peacefully then others, sometimes we're our own worst enemies. Strong poem Mell, contains the right measure of all the human emotions that one can go through from youth to adulthood, and the acceptance that the void will never be filled. You write with such wonderful projection, your poems deal honestly with all manner of subject matter, I would say, for a Hippie, you have it all together, but my point of vuiew I always will wonder why it took my Mother, until the year before she died, to actually open up and speak of the malfunctions in her life, with a disfunctional family determined what tact she would adopt, and how long it took her to realize, I think always at the expense of the child, and in retrospect, how inane it was that people become products of the force of character of those relative that came before. Life is too short, not to be and adopt a quieter acceptance, and not let past interfer with personal growth, to the point it accets the upcoming generation. You're a strong Lady my friend, and your writing projects such honest acceptance of fact, and your ability to relate it, in such wonderful poetic form. Hope you're well, hope it's warmer weather for you then it is here, for it makes me house bound, and I'm chomping at Spring, to once again spread my wings, it's so darn cold here, not enjoyable at all, and all of January so far has been just plain depressing. Keep writing Mell, your ability of proclaim is great appreciated by many, a definate plus to TPL since you joined us. Love and best wishes, Jo (still like your ability to use linguists, it's really something to behold.)
This Poem was Critiqued By: Rick Barnes On Date: 2004-01-12 13:29:48
Critiquer Rating During Critique: 1.00000
Mell, The opening four lines of this work sort of swirl like the opening of Beetoven's Ninth Symphony...and then: "My mother's face at the window like a full moon." What a statement! What a powerful image that carries throughout the poem. What a motif!!! You elucidate this with a mastery all your own: "Standing outside, I gaze at the framing of her eerie visage, then at the whole repository of prolix pain, my childhood domicile." This is so signatory Mell Morris. What a voice you have developed. I smile a smile of recognition. Not only at the uniqueness of your poetic throat, but at my own childhood memories. Those years with eddies of meaning gleaned "from Mother's dismissive gestures: her lack of care semaphored in an arms-length stance, a constant sardonic commentary, by her oft- repeated put-downs, by a chronicity of frowns." Substitute the pronoun "Father" and I would be suspect of your reading my mail. I have long marveled at your mastery of the verbage, but Mell, your textured rhythms and use of rhymes as emphasis has reached a whole new plateau. "Life Sentence", is such a fitting title. My Father use to say, "having children was a life sentence". You have given me the voice and words to retort, "That goes both ways Dad!". I am pleased to have another "Morris" added to my collection of favorite poems. Rick
This Poem was Critiqued By: Claire H. Currier On Date: 2004-01-11 00:11:25
Critiquer Rating During Critique: 9.50000
As caretaker for my 92 year old mother and 85 year old mother in law all I can say is WOW.......your words bring to life my childhood in a way I wsa never one to say I love you her words reflected a phrase of 'me too'....and to this day she does the same.......she was the one who handed out chores to be done before any fun could be had, she never read me a story, never told me I did fine, compared me to an older sister though who was so much brighter then I, prettier too.......did that matter so much to mom? I would hope not but even today she tells me how ugly I am....she goes against most everything I say or try to do for her but still I do......and when she wants to punish me she has her ways, even indeed your poetry has opened a wound and it shall never heal. Mom has made her final plans for resting with dad....she wants to be cremated or she did back when she made the made me very sad the day she called me to meet her at the funeral home along with my brother. She wanted us to know what she had done......I cried for hours after......even dead I could not understand the burning of her body......I thought she would be in so much pain...........I do love my mom you know....we only have one to love. During my lifetime I know she loved my sister more and brother as well.....but that was, I just tried hard to win some of her you know I have cared for mom here at home for close to three years now....and that began right after my open heart this day mom won't tell me she loves me, she deliberately refuses to eat what I cook at times, my sister tells her its okay at her age she can do what she wants.....well, my sister does not live here 24/7 and has no right to say such things.........but for your poem my has opened memories of long ago presenting into the present.....if mom died and came back to haunt me well I would wonder if perhaps the Lord did not tell her she could not stay until she loved someone other then herself.... You are creating a monster in me my friend....... For those that care for parents into their nineties I pray they get some help along the way and take a break for themself for without one they just might see that face in the window reaching out from tells me she will never die for she does not want to.......I told her there is no fear in death, been there and it is a place of peace and beauty but I tend to find a difference need to know and love God first and the rest will fall into place.....again this has been an interesting read which took hold of me from the first stanza and held me tight till closing......and as you can see my own mind has rambled on about life with mom and she will live to see her hundreth birthday for the party has already been planned. Thanks for posting and sharing, be safe and God Bless......I pray your mother did not treat you this way should be shared, enjoyed and love should be a four letter word spoken easily and from the heart. God Bless, Claire
This Poem was Critiqued By: Turner Lee Williams On Date: 2004-01-10 14:51:14
Critiquer Rating During Critique: 9.66667
Mell--This title serves as a warning to the reader (or should) that something REAL is about to take place. He or she 'by continuing' do so at the risk of learning/exploring/ some raw truths about a growing contingent of the geriatric crowd: "GROWN CHILDREN ABUSE." The piece starts out harmless enough, even beautifully optimistic: "Dawn, the launching of another day, the lush grass a coverlet of umber dew; light awakening whispery shadows, glowing in susurrant, penumbra places. My mother's face at the window like a full moon." You can not get any more poetic than this, especially the first four lines! What great metaphoric descriptors (the launching...; ...lush grass...; ...coverlet...; ...umber dew; light awakening... on and on! The imagery created here for all the senses are quite enticing! At this point, the face at the window doesn't appear to be ominous. Now, your extended look at this silhouette of "mom" serves as a epiphany which causes you to revisit some prolonged unpleasantries: "Youth was time served...; "Those years with...meaning gleaned from... (enjambment)...dismissive gestures..." etc,etc. A long list of cruelties suffered at the hands of your "dear" mother with no nurturing displayed or shown by her; but it doesn't end there, for whatever reason(s)you get the double whammy: you must take care of her because (of old age) she no longer can care for herself or can not be left alone (is she a hospice out-patient?). Your ending is better also superb: the combination enjambment "I feel her reach as an undertow, a desperate go at pulling me to her siade and along for the ride as she leaves for a final unknown destination." and internal rhymes between stanza #4 (undertow/go) and #5 (side/ride, along/unknown adds to the already rhythmic tone of this Blake/Poe-like piece (is there any doubt where MOM will be going in her afterlife--really?). This five stanza free verse has it all: real time realism; harmonious rhythm; colorful vocabulary (thanks for umber, susurrant, penumbra, prolix, and semaphored); great line breaks; and excellent descriptors (harsh and nice)that by placement created depths of imagery. The return to "sentence" in stanzas #2 (mandatory) and #4 (another) served to reemphasize the title and theme. I hope like crazy that I haven't misstatedyour intentions. Thanks for allowing yourself to "go there" and for taking us with you as you brought forth such a gut-wrenching effort. TLW
This Poem was Critiqued By: Thomas Edward Wright On Date: 2004-01-09 23:34:01
Critiquer Rating During Critique: 1.00000
Prolixed- Up here in the cold country we send them ice fishing. I know this will not work for you. But I wish you well, Mell. I wish you well. Another fine piece. Very well, very nice. Ice. Remember. Antimony
This Poem was Critiqued By: marilyn terwilleger On Date: 2004-01-09 21:41:10
Critiquer Rating During Critique: 10.00000
Hi Mell, I was really into a crit of this piece when I hit the wrong key and zapped it out! So here goes again....this masterfully written piece really speaks to me as I cared for my mother for six years before her death at the age of 91. I loved her dearly but she nearly killed me as I tried to please her in one way or the other. In the 1st stanza your beautiful words lulled me into believing this would be a lovely poem about the awakening of a new day...."lush grass a coverlet of umber dew...light awakening whispery shadows" even the mother's moon face at the window did not interrupt my lulled state. However, in the 2nd stanza I knew this piece would take me in another direction...."her eerie visage" ..."prolix pain...youth.. time served...mandatory sentance with no early release"..these words exemplify my own feelings and are somewhat difficult for me to read...even now when my mother has been gone for some six years. In S3 you describe the mothers lack of caring.. ..."arms-length stance" a child feels so much rejection by these jesters and one wonders if the parent ever really knows what a life long impact they have...."repeated put-downs..frowns..never a touch" all painful things for any child..grown or not. And in the end we find ourselves caring for this uncaring parent and wonder if the sentance will ever end. This is another great piece of never cease to amaze me. I do hope you are not speaking of your own mother here but if you are you have my sympathy and understanding. Hope you are well and will continue to grace us with your talent. Blessings...Marilyn
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