Today, March 10, 2020, is my mother’s 91st birthday!
It has been a tough week and a half, as we lost my brother Tom – my mom’s only son, my only sibling – February 28th, but trying to make her birthday as nice as possible.
Here is an excerpt from my work-in-progress novel portrait of the Victorian poetess, Christina Rossetti: The Dove Upon Her Branch. Christina was extremely close to her mother, whom she lived with virtually all her life until her mother died at the age of 85. (One of the first poems Christina wrote was at the age of eleven to mark her mother’s birthday)
“Today’s your natal day, sweet flowers I bring …”
Christina would never deny her mother’s opinion was the one that haunted and pleased her most. Even as a willful child, getting her way wasn’t as gratifying as hearing her mother say, “Good girl”, and, even better, seeing the light of approval in her eyes. They were glowing and moist as Christina held out a forget-me-not posy and began reciting her first poem—well, the first she admitted to.
“Mother accept I pray, my offering …”
“Of course, my darling.” The flowers were in her mother’s hands. “Go on. I know the best is yet to come.”
How did she? Christina wondered if Gabriel had given the surprise away as he had threatened, not only that there was a poem but, also, the very words that comprised it. She went on anyway. “And may you happy live, and long us to bless …”
The flowers were in her mother’s lap as she pulled a handkerchief out of her sleeve.
“Receiving as you give,” Christina’s own eyes teared up, as it happened and she remembered, “great happiness.”
Hopefully, her mother wiped hers for the best of reasons, Christina then as now needing her poetry to find its brightest point in Francis Polidori Rossetti’s appreciation of it.
“And the rhymes all your own. I heard you wouldn’t have any help with them.”
Christina turned her suspicion to William for spoiling the unexpectedness of her birthday gift to her mother. “Of course.”
“You don’t need to stamp your foot.”
“I’m sorry, Mama.”
“Instead, let poetry express your mood.”
Copyright © 2020 by DM Denton
To My Mother
by Christina Rossetti, 1830 – 1894
To-day’s your natal day;
Sweet flowers I bring:
Mother, accept, I pray
And may you happy live,
And long us bless;
Receiving as you give
The secrets of your heart
are stacked against the wall,
canvases for your art
of hiding what you missed.
No mistaking your style,
a freedom out of hand
that kept you all the while
believing as you wished.
A world that long was yours
before it was revealed—
with courage its master.
Flowers filling a place
left bereft of your own,
a portrait in a vase
found by me, your daughter.
Landscapes take you afar,
cats and soup bring you home
to settle for who you are:
the author of this poem.
~ DM Denton
©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.