Motherhood & Words

Back in 2007, when I was pregnant with Zoë and deathly afraid of losing the pregnancy, I spent weeks on the couch with my feet up, willing my uterus to hold tight to that little bean. I lay there, wishing I could read, wishing I could focus, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t follow any kind of sustained narrative. Then a friend recommended Marie Howe’s What the Living Do. I ordered it, and as soon as it arrived, I devoured it, poem after fantastic poem, letting myself slip out of my life and into Howe’s words. I hated coming to the last poem in the collection.

I meant to revisit Howe’s work and buy her latest collection, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, but well, I got busy with my little Zoë, with making sure that Stella knew we still loved her. I got busy with teaching and writing and—everything. But then last week, one of my lovely students—hi, Carrie!—sent me one of Howe’s poems, and I remembered, instantly, why I love her work.

In honor of National Poetry Month, and because I love Marie Howe’s poetry, here is “Hurry,” reprinted with permission of author:


We stop at the dry cleaners and the grocery store
and the gas station and the green market and
Hurry up honey, I say, hurry hurry,
as she runs along two or three steps behind me
her blue jacket unzipped and her socks rolled down.

where do I want her to hurry to? To her grave?
To mine? Where one day she might stand all grown?

Today, when all the errands are finally done, I say to her,
Honey I’m sorry I keep saying Hurry–you walk ahead of me.
You be the mother.

And, Hurry up, she says, over her shoulder, looking
back at me, laughing. Hurry up now darling, she says,
hurry, hurry, taking the house keys from my hands.

Please check out her work if you’re not familiar with it. Revisit it if you are. And then raise your glass in honor of all the poets whose words save us just when we need to be saved.

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Ines on April 9, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    What a beautiful poem, Kate. So touching. Thank you.

  2. Elizabeth on April 9, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    I love this honor of poetry month post. And while I am familiar with Howe's work, I have never read this wonderful poem. Thank you!

    As an aside, how do you go about getting the author's permission to reprint it? I often post poems on my own website and just hope for the best that the author won't mind — I know that's probably wrong and would love some tips.

  3. unfinishedportraitofsam on April 9, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    oh, gorgeous. thank you for posting this, Kate. i'm sending it to my sister–who just had her second child. his sister, my niece, is 2.5, and they're working on letting her know she's still loved, too. : )

  4. Myrna CG Mibus on April 9, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    I love the poem. Thanks for sharing it. Almost made me cry, well, it is kind of making me cry because I can see myself in the poem – and my kids. But that's the beauty of the poem and of sharing it – it's making me think about how I can be a better mom.

  5. onlyoublog on April 10, 2010 at 7:22 am

    What a wonderful poem! (and 5 minutes ago I just made my son rush out the door…)I am not familiar with Howe's work but I will now look for it. And that's a great idea idea to post a poem for this occasion…I may borrow your idea.

  6. Alex on April 10, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Great poem! And while I hate being hurried, it turns out that I have an even more difficult time with dawdling… I resolved just last week to say "hurry up" less. Thanks for the reinforcement — I'll need it again and again and again and again.

  7. Alexis on April 11, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Thanks for posting that lovely poem Kate. A much needed reminder to me to slow down!

  8. The Blue Suitcase on April 12, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Oh, so true it hurts a little. Thank you, on behalf of my hurried-up daughter, too.

  9. Abby on March 16, 2011 at 4:56 am

    What a lovely, simple poem yet covering sentiments we, as parents, can identify with and learn from. Thanks for posting.

  10. Sarah on March 1, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Happy to come back to your lovely website and re-read this lovely poem. Thank you!