American Life in Poetry: Column 215


To commemorate Mother's Day, here's a lovely poem by David Wojahn of Virginia, remembering his mother after forty years.

Walking to School, 1964

Blurring the window, the snowflakes' numb white lanterns.   
She's brewed her coffee, in the bathroom sprays cologne   
And sets her lipstick upright on the sink.   
The door ajar, I glimpse the yellow slip,   

The rose-colored birthmark on her shoulder.   
Then she's dressed—the pillbox hat and ersatz fur,   
And I'm dressed too, mummified in stocking cap   
And scarves, and I walk her to the bus stop   

Where she'll leave me for my own walk to school,   
Where she'll board the bus that zigzags to St. Paul   
As I watch her at the window, the paperback   

Romance already open on her lap,   
The bus laboring off into snow, her good-bye kiss   
Still startling my cheek with lipstick trace.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©1990 by David Wojahn, whose most recent book of poems is "Interrogation Palace: New and Selected Poems 1982-2004," University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006. "Walking to School, 1964" is from the longer poem "White Lanterns," printed in "Poetry," Vol. 157, 1990, by permission of David Wojahn and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.