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I am reading the poem "Sestina for the Working Mother" by Deborah Garrison. Can you...

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horselover20 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted August 7, 2013 at 2:01 AM via web

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I am reading the poem "Sestina for the Working Mother" by Deborah Garrison. Can you please explain the theme behind it?  

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 7, 2013 at 2:58 AM (Answer #1)

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Deborah Garrison's poem "Sestina for the Working Mother" is written, as the title suggests, in sestina form. The  sestina is a very complex, formal poem form consisting of 39 lines in an intricate pattern of rhyme and rhythm (see link below for more specifics). The first line of the poem (a sestina, remember) ironically says:

No time for a sestina for the working mother.

Another irony can be found in the content of the poem for, though the speaker claims a working mother has no time for a sestina, she has written one. This writing of a sestina in the midst of her busy life demonstrates that this working mother (and presumably all working mothers) can do almost everything--almost. The action of the poem is relatively simple and straightforward: the busy speaker/mother goes off to work and has to leave the raising of her children to others.

The mother takes time to imagine the life she would live if she did not have to go to work

And away from what she might have been as a mother
At home....

If she did not have to work, she would enjoy her morning coffee as she listens to NPR, and she would volunteer at her children's school. Hers would be a life of leisure and service, spending wonderful time with her children, if she had the luxury of quitting her job. 

But she has chosen her flight from them, on this and every morning.
She's now so far away she trusts someone else is listening
To their raised voices, applying a Band-Aid, opening the door
For them when the sunshine calls them out into the day.
At certain moments, head bent at her desk, she can see her children, 
And feels a quick stab. She hasn't forgotten that she is their mother.

Every weekday morning, every working day,
She listens to her heart and the voices of her children.
Goodbye! they shout, and the door closes behind the working mother.

This mother chose her path and is content, despite her daydreaming about what might have been, to be a working mother. The theme, then, must be centered around her contentment and willingness to work despite what she is missing out on in the lives of her children. She has regrets and wishes, but she is a realist and walks out that door "on this and every morning."

You asked two questions in your original post and are only allowed one, but take one of these themes or ideas--perhaps even a phrase or a line--and find a similar element in a song. My only suggestion is not to feel as if you have to find a song about a mom and her children; think about people who persevere or do what they have to do, even if they wish they could do something else.

Sources:

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