NaPoWriMo #4

Household Verse Item #3

suggested by @JasonEscape


Mom bought flat toothpicks
with blunt ends.
One could use them

to keep cake layers from sliding
or to deftly daub Elmer’s Glue
between small surfaces.

They failed, though,
at their stated purpose:
picking between teeth.

We made due,
performing delicate surgery
with an oar.

I never asked why
she didn’t buy the fine pointed
shafts, slender spears.

Whether it was terror
one of us would lose an eye
or because they were three cents cheaper,

either could be true,
knowing her.
Perhaps they were best for cakes.

She baked wonderful
devil’s food and red velvet cakes,
pies from scratch with perfect crust.

I will never taste another,
nor have the answer to endless questions
I never thought to ask.

She sits here, bright and smiling,
remembering only bits
of an ever receding past,

bits I wish I could preserve,
hold fast with a dab
of Elmer’s Glue.


32 thoughts on “NaPoWriMo #4

  1. This has a nice, homespun feeling to it; then grief sneaks up at the end. Very touching. Reminds me to ask all the questions I can think of while I still have the chance.

  2. What an amazing, powerful poem. And sad. This is something I have lived through: why didn’t I ask all those questions when I had the chance. I still have my 88 year old mother and I feel like I should write down everything she says. It’s all critical to a world that is almost completely gone. And she is the only one left who remembers.

  3. Thanks John and Marianne. I am the family historian, the genealogist. I’m the one who asked all the questions and there are countless more left unanswered.

  4. This is touching. I think of all the stories gone now that my parents are gone. It makes me sad yet I am grateful that I did write many stories down. Like you, I am the family historian. Sad and moving..I am sorry.

  5. Oh! heartbreaking and so relevant!

    What a wonderful poem, but sneaky. I didn’t guess the ending….that snuck up on me.


    Lady Nyo

  6. Fading memories is a terrible disease. It affects so many people. I love the way you combined the toothpicks, cake, and glue into the central theme of piecing back the memories.

  7. very emo piece…mental illness scares the crap out of me honestly…i hope that my parents dont go there…if they do i will be there, but…

  8. nice writing…the poem starts so mellow with memory then moves to express the loss of memory all under the disguise of a toothpick….really well done..thank you…bkm

  9. I often wish I’d asked my Grandad many questions before he became ill. Not knowing the little things can be just as frustrating as not knowing the big things.

  10. A very lovely poem, Matt. I guess the reminiscences become more profound when Mom dies or is still here but markedly waning.
    Regardless, taking stock, making sense, grasping the silly and ineffable paradoxes, this is what we must do as we attempt to sort out the Past, the Present and the Future.
    I think you have handled the task in a very graceful fashion.


  11. I keep both kinds handy, for each has their purpose.

    A nice story about your mom, remembering the little details. A very enjoyable read, Matt. 🙂

  12. This is very nice, very beautiful. I love your descriptions of the humble toothpicks, and the honest, touching desire expressed at the end. You’ve used these toothpicks to deftly fix a poem into place that could all too easily slide into overt sentimentality.

  13. Wow, wow, and wow! Very well done! I love poems that take everyday things or events and draw profound conclusions or put them in a profound context. After all, it seems that these are the things that come to define us.

  14. wow!
    If I could taste some myself!

    fine pointed shafts, slender spears.
    I am still smiling..!

    How well have you combined the cakes n tooth picks..!

    Hugs x

  15. Mom enjoyed even though she would never tolerate toothpicks–mused, in this clear moment, that she’s probably made her last pie. She grunted appreciation at the questions never asked. In reading it I found I left off the last “glue”.

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