‘Gratitude isn’t something we talk about’

During our recent pre-holiday writing circle with Vermont’s incarcerated women, we learned that gratitude is both little considered; and the subject of very mixed components. We asked our writers to think about a woman who had been influential in their lives as mentor, mirror or model. Naturally, many chose to write about the mother or mother-figure who raised them. This in itself produced quite mixed results – some tender and nostalgic, others bitter or resigned. All came tumbling out as a welcome release to a theme both tightly held and at times confusing. Regardless of one woman’s experience, all were listened to with respect, a few tears and even a sense of solidarity.

The following poem was created from lines noted from each woman’s writing. Whether discussed in routine conversation or not, you cannot deny that gratitude plays an important role in each woman’s life.

“A vision of how life should be”

I am my mother’s child,
a messy little girl
trying to fit in;
cautious who I let in to my circle,
teach others what I’ve learned –
to keep my head,
how to love one another.

I carry on her strength,
her example of patience
every single day
out of nowhere;
solid soul-feeding values
resting in her presence.

I appreciate my mom for yelling at me
little girls need to be clean!

gently little-kissing my cheeks in rapid-fire.
I would never have known love at all
taken away from my mother,
where tension dissolves into darkness.

I spent my youth fearful
pressured by the immovable.
I am who I am because of my grandmother
her precious voice singing to me
steeping me in poems
I longed to deeply connect with,
rescued from my sorrows.

Mommy, O Mommy,
how precious we women are!
When we get older
going through our pain
we adjust all over again –
a new family, strangers,
affection to share.
No matter where, blood calls
fondest memories.

Thanks, Mom,
I feel complete.

. . . and you?

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