Homework Help

Could I have an explanation of the poem "Of Mothers, Among Other Things"? I smell upon...

user profile pic

renim | Student, Undergraduate

Posted February 1, 2011 at 5:30 PM via web

dislike 0 like

Could I have an explanation of the poem "Of Mothers, Among Other Things"?


I smell upon this twisted                                       1

blackbone tree the silk and white

petal of my mother's youth.

From her ear-rings three diamonds

splash a handful of needles,                                  5

and I see my mother run back

from rain to the crying cradles

The rains tack and sew

with broken thread the rags                                  9

of the tree-tasselled light.

But her hands are a wet eagle's                           11

two black pink-crinkled feet,

one talon crippled in a garden-                              13

trap set for a mouse.Her saris

do not cling:they hang,loose                                15

feather of a onetime wing.

My cold parchment tongue licks bark                   17

in the mouth when I see her four

still sensible fingers slowly flex

to pick a grain of rice from the kitchen floor.

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

mitchrich4199 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted February 4, 2011 at 8:56 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 2 like

In this poem, Ramanujan creates a comparison between the speaker's mother and a tree, along with the life that surrounds that tree. She begins by calling the audience's attention to "the silk and white petal of my mother's youth." Using the "blackbone tree" and "twisting" it together with her mother, the poet sets the connection between the two. The speaker illustrates the age and commitment her mother showed toward her, through the imagery of nature. She sees her mother run back to her "crying cradles" through a "handful of needles" which is the rain. Her mother has sacrificed a lot as seen in the line that reads, "the rains tack and sew/ with broken thread the rags/ of the tree-tasselled light."

The speaker can see her mother and her "wet eagle's two black pink-crinkled feet,/ one talon crippled in a garden-/trap set for a mouse." In this instance and in the closing line, we can imagine that the speaker has some perspective on motherhood. Perhaps she is now a mother and she realizes all the little things that mothers do to care for their children. The last lines read:

My cold parchment tongue licks bark
in the mouth when I see her four
still sensible fingers slowly flex
to pick a grain of rice from the kitchen floor.

I believe that the "cold parchment tongue" is the speaker's way of saying that her attitude towards her mother was cold at times and that she didn't understand the things her mother was doing for her. She can see her pick up a grain of rice from the floor, because that's what she does on a daily basis, now that she has children.

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes