Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Story Poems

PRAISING MOTHER: Ruth Evelyn Johnston Thompson

Born Ruth Evelyn Johnston (don't forget that "t").
Married Ruth Thompson, Erwin's wife and lover.
We called you Mother or Mama,
but not "Mom."
"Mom" is too much
like the women in the wax commercials.

You are an original.
Your own person.
A sociable eccentric.
Your will like a steel bolt through your character.
You fought and scraped and plotted for what mattered.
You were never one to purr your way to favor, rubbing against legs to be petted.
If you'd been born a few generations later,
who knows what history might have had in store for you?

Your grit the stuff of American legends,
I see you starting out as a stock girl and ending up Corporate President.
Your feet so grounded they'd sprout roots.
Your head a computer, whirling out business deals.

Or, I see you sneaking into the army as a youngster,
Carrying the general's bath water,
And ending up five star general yourself.
Hair clipped close and held firmly under your helmet.
Shoulders only slightly stooped by golden epaulettes.

The general in you incapable of small-scale projects.
You marshal resources and forces as you:
Make acres of quilts.
Cook roomfuls of banquets.
Plant fields of flowers and vegetables, laying in stores for the winter.
Victory is yours, over and over, as you pack the productivity of two into one body.

Yet, for all your gumption, your feelings, like old lace, disintegrate in my hands.
Your magnolia petal soul bobs down the creek,
navigating shallows and peering into depths.
Delicate titmouse feather Mama,
same as those miniature birds you feed before they dart into gourd palaces.

I write this wrapped in your masterpiece quilt, appliqued with views of Africa
you crafted and cried over for years during one of our civil wars.

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  1. When I talked, played, and sang of “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary” | Riehl Life: Village Wisdom for the 21st Century

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