Motherhood & Words

Do you know those evenings, those very long evenings when you look at the clock at 5 p.m. and can’t believe there are still two whole hours before you can realistically put the kids to bed? Tonight, both girls were overtired—whiny and tantrum-prone. And there is nothing like a wailing, possibly-coming-down-with-something baby and a huffy, desperately tired, smarty-pants five-year-old to distort the passage of time. To almost stall the passage of time. I glanced at the clock a dozen times, wondered if it was possible for the second hand to rotate any more slowly.

But now both my darlings are asleep and I have poured myself a glass of wine. The Oscars are on, but the television is muted, and I was just re-reading my friend Francine’s new chapbook, Like Saul. This quiet and this poem (and okay, and this glass of wine) are enough to bolster my good humor:

One Small Place
by Francine Marie Tolf

My mother believed Eden was the whole earth.
Then we sinned, and “our intellect darkened.”
That phrase seduced me as a child:
I pictured tracts of water and land
suddenly dimmed, like sky before storm.

Tonight, I sit on a bench
watching a couple push their children on swings:
the mother, their toddler,
the father, their baby,
who is whooping and gurgling,
his hair bright as duckling’s down.

A boy of fourteen
is swinging too, as high as he can,
no friends around to witness this lapse of cool.

I hear we’re due for a storm.
I think it will be a terrible one.
You would never guess it from the gold
lingering in this park,
wind combing cottonwoods
until they swell like distant surf.

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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. Elizabeth on February 23, 2009 at 11:27 am

    I thought that I had already left a comment, but maybe not? Anyway, I love this poem and wonder whether your friend’s book is available for purchase?

  2. kate hopper on February 23, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Absolutely, Elizabeth! Click on “Like Saul” above and it will take you to Plan B press.