Poetry Friday: For Mother’s Day, an introduction to the poetry of Virginia Esenwine

Three years ago, I wrote a poem for my father for Father’s Day. I framed it and gave it to him – and just a few weeks ago, I learned it won a poetry contest sponsored by the Robert Frost Farm and Derry (NH) Public Library.

Mom. circa 1950

So what could I do for Mother’s Day?

As it turned out, I didn’t need to think about it very long. As I’ve mentioned several times here on the ol’ Triple-R, I’ve been cleaning out my parent’s house – the home I grew up in – and finding all sorts of nostalgic and historical treasures. Mom, who is in her ’80’s, is in the local nursing home and Dad is going to be joining her as soon as a bed opens up, so we’re talking about a good 50+ years of “stuff” their only child needs to sort through. Recently, I discovered a huge pile of photographs inside a dusty old trunk going back to when mom was a baby…as well as poetry!

All these years, and I’d never known Mom wrote poetry when she was young! I knew I’d gotten my sense of humor (and sense of direction) from Dad – but I’d always felt like he was where my creative side had come from, as well. While that’s certainly true, it’s very obvious by the plethora of poems Mom wrote that my penchant for poetry definitely comes from her.

Thanks, Mom!

So back to Mother’s Day. I decided to provide mom with an opportunity she’d never had:  being published.

I thought this would be something unique for her, and a chance to allow her to enjoy something she’d never done. When my father was still in the army back in the ’50’s, he had wanted to get into radio, but opted for the more sensible (and much more lucrative) position as a building materials store manager. Many years later when I was working in radio, the station needed a new local talk show host and I suggested Dad, who ended up hosting his own show for about two years.

Now, it was Mom’s turn to shine!

Virginia Gertrude Agnes (Johnson) Esenwine

Incense to the Mind and Dawn

With the dawn I wait
to fill and complete another day,
to touch and wake surrounding things
and have them listen and stay.
The misty light of feeling you have,
the smell of far-away incense
seems to cling to your nostrils,
……….and strangely, your mouth
……….……….and tongue – you
can taste its sensuous lift,
a lift to the mind and the soul;
the body?        Sometimes a body changes
with the mind – sensing not an
air of incense upon itself, but
rather feeling a numbing,
senseless type of being.

And too, as the dawn waits
eagerly, to have the sun’s
……….assuring warmth –
where is the warmth of the
body?              One’s own flesh?
Is it a true part of the
……….sense, or could it be
long forsaken – gone by –
has it, this warmth and strength,
been snatched from before
……….one’s eyes; or stolen
by vanity one day and
taken some other form, a
form that does not become
us, we who easily scoff
upon other bodies, and also
……….at righteous doings?
I feel and smell the incense
on me, around me – everywhere.
It’s quite strong this time, and
……….burns my eyes and fills
my throat with a heavy dust.

Either breathe deeper and choke
……….your life – or stay,
remain as the dawn, and
have every day one of
……….completeness.

– © 1960, Virginia Gertrude Agnes Johnson

Mom from last year, as active as she can be!

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Mom was 28 when she wrote this poem, and the most startling thing to me about it is the fact that it’s free verse; Mom has always been a very straight-laced, traditional sort of person, so seeing her writing without care for meter or rhyme makes me feel like I barely know her! And I’m not sure what to make of her sentiments, but it’s an astonishing side of her I’ve never experienced.

I hope you are able to do something nice for your mother this weekend. Liz Steinglass is celebrating the release of her new poetry collection, Soccerverse (Wordsong, 2019) at her blog today, where she’s hosting the complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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Ordering personalized signed copies online?
Oh, yes, you can!


  Coming July 2, 2019!

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)

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Thank you to everyone for your support!

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28 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: For Mother’s Day, an introduction to the poetry of Virginia Esenwine

  1. Linda KulpTrout

    Your mom is lovely and so is her poem. What a wonderful tribute to her! Isn’t it amazing how much we don’t know about our parents? I found a couple of poems my mother had written when she was in her twenties. We didn’t have books in the home where I grew up, and no one ever talked about poetry so finding her poems was a nice surprise. Thank you for sharing this, Matt. It brought back memories of my own mother.

    Like

  2. Wow — you really discovered a rare treasure with her poetry! Must be interesting and fascinating to learn about this other side of her. Beautiful woman and words!

    Like

  3. lindabaie

    Cleaning out your parents’ home has been so full of treasures, Matt. This is certainly a beautiful discovery, the picture and the poem. Knowing the roots of your own special words is quite special.

    Like

  4. So cool for you to discover your mom’s poetry! I think we can never truly know our parents, especially who they were before we were born. But it’s a treasure to have remembrances like this. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Like

    1. Thank you, Buffy. You’re right, we never really know them because they are ‘parents’ – not ‘poets’ or ‘teachers’ or ‘doctors’ or anything. So seeing things like this open up a whole new world.

      Like

  5. What a beautiful gift for you mother Matt. It’s a glorious poem. My mother died a few years ago so Mother’s day is still kind of sad for me. She used to recite poetry from memory so perhaps I will read some of her favourites on Sunday in memory of her.

    Like

  6. Michelle Kogan

    What a treasure you found in her deep and moving words–Thanks for sharing her poem and the lovely images of her too!

    Like

  7. Liz Steinglass

    Wow. I found her poem incredibly intimate. I find what she’s done here–sharing one’s deepest reflections–can be so strangely difficult to do. How amazing to have found her poetry. Happy Mother’s Day to her.

    Like

  8. Kay Mcgriff

    What a gift for your mother for Mother’s Day. Please tell her I enjoyed her beautiful poem. The images and questions she poses will linger with me throughout the day. Thank you for sharing the treasure you found!

    Like

  9. What a beautiful gift to your mother, and finding her poem, a beautiful gift to you! I remember when my dad began to write poems in earnest—it’s a wonderful bond to share with a parent. My dad hasn’t been writing much lately, but I hope he’ll get back to it one day.

    Like

  10. maryleehahn

    How fun for you to find roots you never knew you had, and what a perfect gift — giving your mom the chance to be published!

    Like

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