Lorna Goodison

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Who is the speaker in Lorna Goodison's poem "For My Mother (May I Inherit Half Her Strength)"?

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The speaker is the daughter of the incredibly strong woman referenced in the title. She is the daughter of this woman, who was the "child of the petite bourgeoisie," who had a trousseau and things with "French-turned names," who wore a veil that was "fifteen chantilly yards long" and hosted a wedding the likes that no one in "Harvey River, Hanover" had ever before seen. This same woman, the speaker's mother, later learned to "work miracles" over her sewing machine or stove, feeding nearly two dozen people on a stew with nothing but "fallen-from-the-head cabbage leaves and a carrot and a cho-cho and a palmful of meat." This family did not have much, and the speaker's mother seems to have had to make a lot of sacrifices—giving up a much easier life to be with the man she absolutely loved—for her husband and her nine children. And even though the speaker's father evidently had a mistress, something that deeply "hurt his bride," her mother felt the mention of this woman "ha[d] no place in the memory of [the speaker's] father." During the speaker's mother's lifetime, her hands had "grown coarse" and her body had become "permanently fat" and she'd had to sell her sewing machine for one daughter's "Senior Cambridge fees" and endured "pain . . . with the eyes of a queen." The speaker is the daughter of this mother who was brave all her life.

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The speaker in the poem "For My Mother (May I Inherit Half Her Strength)" by Lorna Goodison is the daughter of the woman being eulogized, her mother. The daughter tells her mother's story from the love at first sight with a cricket player come up to her town for a cricket match. He, dressed in blazer and serge pants and she, standing by the oleander fell in love at first sight. He never played cricket that day.

The daughter goes on to chronicle her mother's life of sacrifice and hardship as she raised nine children, while he had a special female "friend." The daughter tells of her father's funeral, also attended by the "friend," and of how her mother sewed black dresses for all the women in the family and buried her husband of nine children with a straight-backed dignified walk and dry eyes.

Finally, the daughter tells how one day, while peeling bananas, her mother realized that for one time, she didn't have to be brave and cried--she cried for herself and for the husband she loved.

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