Poetry: “Tell me” by Sara London


Tell Me
by Sara London

In my country
you say, “there is
no word for it.”
In my country
you say, “our
way of life.”
In my country
you might over-
hear the story
of the woman
with eleven children,
who never once
achieved orgasm.
Here, the diffident
are the squires
of conviction;
they know that
talking undid
a few people.
Here, a woman
saddened by love
might lose her
gloves, blame her
children, then find
them under her hat
on top of her head.
It is always
the mother
in my country.
Tell me
it is different
in yours.

from The Tyranny of Milk, published by Four Way Books. 2010.

This is her debut poetry collection.  Sara London who was born in California but grew up in Vermont, teaches creative writing and literature at Mount Holyoke College, and for the past ten years has been a children’s book reviewer for The New York Times Book Review.

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35 Responses to Poetry: “Tell me” by Sara London

  1. Arindam says:

    Wow! What a beautiful poem.I can tell you, no it is not different in my country also. 🙂

  2. magsx2 says:

    Hi,
    The poem is just so true, no matter where in the world you live. 😀
    Sara London sounds like a very talented Lady indeed.

  3. My sister went to Mount Holyoke…pronounced “hol-yoke”. Sorry just had to say that. In my country, mothers were blamed for (let your children fill in the blanks). Just had to write that. 🙂

  4. Poignant poem – it seems so true that in many cultures the mother takes the blame for most things regarding her children, and then on top of that seems only to have herself to blame for things regarding herself, like losing her gloves. No wonder we lose our minds! I love the way this poet writes…

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Barbara,
      Because we mothers get blamed for everything it’s a wonder we only lose our gloves and our minds.

      I’m really glad to introduce you to a new poet.

  5. What a lovely poem — so impressive for a debut collection! Thank you for sharing. How did you come across the poet and her book?

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Melissa,
      I like your new gravatar image. I can see you’re happy

      Unfortunately I can’t remember where I found the poem, it’s been waiting in my drafts for a while. It may be one of the Academy of American Poets “Poem-a-day” poems. I used it today because it’s the six month anniversary of my Mom’s passing. I miss her so much. After talking on the phone to her every day for all these years, the silence is so silent….

      • Oh Rosie, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Please accept my deepest sympathies. My heart breaks for you. I come from a family of close women — my mother’s mother lived with us my whole life until she passed in 2001. And my mother, sister and I are constantly in contact. I can feel the depth of your pain, and I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

      • dearrosie says:

        Thanks Melissa. I appreciate your concern and feel the love in your message.
        No doubt you have many stories of your Naniji. Have you ever written about her?

      • souldipper says:

        Rosie, I missed this point when I was here the first time. Is it too late to add my warmest hug? I’d also like to give you the honorary position of “Grand Dame” in my Orphans Club. We hope you’ll accept and maintain the position just past the one year anniversary. That way, if that is a tough date to get through, we can all hold your hand while we walk it with you.

      • dearrosie says:

        Amy you are so thoughtful. Thank you for the hug, it feels good 🙂 but wow I’m honored to be the honorary “Grand Dame” of your club. What a great idea. What must I do to maintain the title? I hope it means I get to ride in a horse-drawn carriage with a chapeau and white gloves?

  6. souldipper says:

    Motherhood – womanhood. We do all speak the same language. Just different tongues. 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Amy,
      I like the thought that we all speak the same language just different tongues, and the motherhood~womanhood link.

      My mother who was famous for her sayings, always said, “A woman’s work is never done in the house…”

  7. Priya says:

    I read the poem yesterday (my time), Rosie. And was lost for words mainly because it evokes so many emotions. The most overpowering one at that time was a helpless impatience at the unfair reactions towards a mother — she is at once forced to receive undue responsibility for things that are not in her control, blamed for losing control and then in the same breath turned into a haloed angel (which she would be were she not a human first). A mother is, to my mind, a human with a inherent strength to lead a family to either unbounded joy, or unbelievable misery. Perhaps the unfair blames on her are because of this power she has?

    But I ramble.

    I thought of your mother, too, when I read it. And my mother. May we remember how blessed we are and have been, Rosie.

    • dearrosie says:

      Sara London manages, with just a few words, to raise so many emotions in her readers. I’ve read the poem many times over the past year so I can understand your feeling at a loss for words. I’m a mother and a daughter and the poem evokes feeling of anger, impatience and love too…

      I appreciate the time and effort you took to write the comment Priya, and I love your final line. We are both fortunate to have been blessed with the best of mothers.

      I scatter my thanks like fairy dust up into the ethers and I know – somehow – that my Mom hears me. I wish I could hear her answer.

  8. Sybil says:

    I’ve been corresponding with a woman in China for 25 years now. She laments the stresses of raising a willlful teenager. The guilt she expresses is all too familiar to me …

    • dearrosie says:

      That’s interesting Sybil. You obviously started off writing letters with stamps. Are you still?
      Did you read Amy Tan’s book “The Joy Luck Club”? The story’s about a group of Chinese mothers and their particular brand of Chinese guilt their children grow up with.

  9. That is one touching poetry, story. Moving, intense, real… Yes, not to different from some women in my country….brings back so much memories. Thanks. Have a blessed day!

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Island Traveler,
      Poetry like this one that uses simple language can sometimes move us more than a thick wordy book. I’m glad you enjoyed it, thank you for commenting.

  10. Stories like inspires me that I need to do my part each day to make a difference. That someone out there hasn’t been freed from all forms of bondage. Everyone has the right to be happy, to be free to live and enjoy their life… To be loved, to feel human…

    • dearrosie says:

      It’s sad to think that many people in the world live without happiness or freedom. It’s not that difficult to love our fellow human being.
      When I stand at my cash register and smile at a passing stranger I usually get a large smile back..

  11. I am flummoxed. I have read this poem many times over and it doesn’t evoke any emotion in me. Is it because I do not understand it? What that says about me as a woman & as a mother, I wonder.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi AIT,
      I’m not an English professor so I can’t really say. I think you’re being too hard on yourself, your son is still young.
      Also, just as different paintings appeal to different people, if you don’t like this poem, it won’t evoke any feelings in you.

  12. Hmm.. maybe.
    But I didn’t dislike the poem, Rosie. I think I can explain it in a different way after reading the latest post from Charles – it just rolled/ slid off my back. I don’t know if that’s a better explanation.
    ( P.S. – It’s AIT 🙂 )

    • dearrosie says:

      Good morning aiT,
      Sorry about the misspelling of your name. That’s what happens when I reply to comments at 11pm after a busy Sunday at work. I hope I haven’t made other mistakes…?

      My thanks to Charles 🙂 “it just slid off your back” is a good way to look at it.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi AIT,
      Mea culpa, I just discovered that for some reason I’ve been spelling your name with a “D” all this time. I’m really sorry, I know you’re a “thinker” 🙂 Thank you for finally pointing it out to me. I’ve just gone through a few posts and corrected the spelling.

  13. munchow says:

    Thanks for sharing. I don’t know anything about Sara London, but I will definitely check her and her book out. For me this was absolutely a very touching poem.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Otto,
      I’m glad to know the poem “touched” you. I’m glad also to spread the word about Sara London. I wonder whether she knows we’re all enjoying her poetry here?

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