Mother, mother, what illbred aunt Or what disfigured and unsightly Cousin did you so unwisely keep Unasked to my christening, that she Sent these ladies in her stead With heads like darning—eggs to nod And nod and nod at foot and head And at the left side of my crib? Mother, who made to order stories Of Mixie Blackshort the heroic bear, Mother, whose witches always, always, Got baked into gingerbread, I wonder Whether you saw them, whether you said Words to rid me of those three ladies Nodding by night around my bed, Mouthless, eyeless, with stitched bald head. In the hurricane, when father’s twelve Study windows bellied in Like bubbles about to break, you fed My brother and me cookies and Ovaltine And helped the two of us to choir: “Thor is angry: boom boom boom! Thor is angry: we don’t care!” But those ladies broke the panes. When on tiptoe the schoolgirls danced, Blinking flashlights like fireflies And singing the glowworm song, I could Not lift a foot in the twinkle—dress But, heavy—footed, stood aside In the shadow cast by my dismal—headed Godmothers, and you cried and cried: And the shadow stretched, the lights went out. Mother, you sent me to piano lessons And praised my arabesques and trills Although each teacher found my touch Oddly wooden in spite of scales And the hours of practicing, my ear Tone—deaf and yes, unteachable. I learned, I learned, I learned elsewhere, From muses unhired by you, dear mother, I woke one day to see you, mother, Floating above me in bluest air On a green balloon bright with a million Flowers and bluebirds that never were Never, never, found anywhere. But the little planet bobbed away Like a soap—bubble as you called: Come here! And I faced my traveling companions. Day now, night now, at head, side, feet, They stand their vigil in gowns of stone, Faces blank as the day I was born, Their shadows long in the setting sun That never brightens or goes down. And this is the kingdom you bore me to, Mother, mother. But no frown of mine Will betray the company I keep.