Poem #27: Mothers by Nikki Giovanni


I’m enjoying  a spot of peace in my house.  I’ve sent my 4 year-old son to my mother’s house. For two hours, better her than me ;).  This week’s poem is Mothers by Nikki Giovanni.  Quite appropriate I thought. Enjoy.


the last time i was home
to see my mother we kissed
exchanged pleasantries
and unpleasantries pulled a warm
comforting silence around
us and read separate books

i remember the first time
i consciously saw her
we were living in a three room
apartment on burns avenue

mommy always sat in the dark
i don’t know how i knew that but she did

that night i stumbled into the kitchen
maybe because i’ve always been
a night person or perhaps because i had wet
the bed
she was sitting on a chair
the room was bathed in moonlight diffused through
those thousands of panes landlords who rented
to people with children were prone to put in windows
she may have been smoking but maybe not
her hair was three-quarters her height
which made me a strong believer in the samson myth
and very black

i’m sure i just hung there by the door
i remember thinking: what a beautiful lady

she was very deliberately waiting
perhaps for my father to come home
from his night job or maybe for a dream
that had promised to come by
“come here” she said “i’ll teach you
a poem: i see the moon
the moon sees me
god bless the moon
and god bless me”

i taught it to my son
who recited it for her
just to say we must learn
to bear the pleasures
as we have borne the pains

– By Nikki Giovanni

Source:  The Poetry Foundation



  1. Marvellous .I love the song beautifuly intertwined into the poem. Thanks for something beautiful.


  2. I love what you are doing here. A friend directed me here. I am also doing similar thing at my blog. Perhaps you could pass by. I have read and reviewed Marilyn’s book ‘Clothe Girl’. If it won’t spoil your intended read you can skim through.

    It is always good to know that one is not alone in ones vision.



  3. Oh such a lovely poem! Totally enjoyed reading this. I wasn’t aware of this poetess at all, but now I am going to go check out more of her poems 🙂 Great choice!


    • Well, given how much poetry you folks feature at Life Wordsmith, I’m glad to have introduced you to the work of Nikki Giovanni.


  4. Wow. I loved those last lines, we must learn to bear the pleasures just as well as the pains. There was another poem, on a similar line by another writer from the Commonwealth, this time from the West Indies, I forget it now, but will hunt it up! It was very similar to this – I think it was Derek Walcott, but there he likened mother to his country. Wonderful choice!


  5. Heh, I love your comment about better he than you. Too funny. That is a lovely poem, I love the line of learning to bear the pleasures like we learn to bear pain. The whole thing is beautiful and really evokes the mother sitting in the moonlight. Beautiful!


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