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My Mothers


   for Alicia Ostriker

My voice has two mothers,
my own mother, Carmen,
and Sappho,
both lost in history
for different reasons
and both preserved in me.

I heard in my mother’s voice
the inflections of her family,
my old Montana uncle
and the stones of the White Rocks
up where the Missouri River is born.

My mother in later life would fade a little
as evening came on,
her tone of voice shifting to Uncle Roy’s
as if she had tuned into
a radio station on a long trip
across open country.

And Sappho I hear with my eyes closed,
the push of a woman
singing into my diaphragm,
thrilling as the hum of my mother’s voice
when she sang to me as a child.

Whitman described it best — the “valved voice”
Where would I be without Walt?
Mother Whitman, as Alicia calls him.

Sometimes my Freshman English teacher
made light of him, the line “handkerchief
designedly dropped” and “my barbaric yawp.”
I sat through the class, rehearsing poetry, knowing
in an inchoate way
what it would take
to sing in a woman’s voice

as maybe Walt tried to do,
or maybe he just tried to sing
and a woman’s voice joined him
from the soul of the world


© 2009 Eloise Klein Healy.
Published in The Islands Project: Poems For Sappho, Red Hen Press, 2007.
Published here with the poet's express permission.

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MatriFocus Cross-Quarterly
is a seasonal web journal (zine) for Goddess Women and others interested in Goddess Lore and Scholarship, Goddess Religion (ancient and contemporary), Feminist Spirituality, Women's Mysteries, Paganism and Neopaganism, Earth-based Religions, Witchcraft, Dianic Wicca and other Wiccan Traditions, the Priestess Path, Goddess Art, Women's Culture, Women's Health, Natural Healing, Mythology, Female Shamanism, Consciousness, Community, Cosmology, and Women's Creativity.

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