Today, I am staying with the work of the poet Carol Ann Duffy. In her collection of poems entitled Feminine Gospels pub.2005 we are treated to poems which describe the endless tasks of women. Historical and imagined, real-life and larger than life Duffy explores the experience of women. Today, I share her poem Work in which she explores the role of mothers expanding to unmanageable proportions. As you read the poem notice how the pace quickens, the work expands, by the end of the poem you the reader are exhausted. (This poem by Duffy exhibits her use of “asyndeton” a literary device in which conjunctions are omitted such as “and ” “or” and the abundant use of the comma. ) At the every end Mother and mother nature are entwined. Please read this poem carefully, enjoy the poet’s choice of words. Pay attention to the lines that cause you to reread and reread. Perhaps at the end it will remind you of your own mother. I hope and pray such a memory is one that inspires and causes you to be grateful. Pause and ponder, and please offer a prayer.
Work by Carol Ann Duffy
To feed one, she worked from home,
took in washing, ironing, sewing.
One small mouth, a soup-filled spoon,
life was a dream.
To feed two,
she worked outside, sewed seeds, watered,
threshed, scythed, gathered barley, wheat, corn.
Twins were born. To feed four,
she grafted harder, second job in the alehouse,
food in the larder, food on the table,
she was game, able. Feeding ten
was a different kettle,
was factory gates
at first light, oil, metal, noise, machines.
To feed fifty, she toiled, sweated, went
on the night shift, schlepped, lifted.
For a thousand more, she built streets,
for double that, high-rise flats. Cities grew,
her brood doubled, peopled skyscrapers,
trebled. To feed more, more,
she dug underground, tunnelled,
laid down track, drove trains. Quadruple came,
multiplied, she built planes, outflew sound.
Mother to millions now,
she flogged TVs,
designed PCs, ripped CDs, burned DVDs.
There was no stopping her. She slogged
night and day at Internet shopping.
A billion named,
she trawled the seas, hoovered fish, felled trees,
grazed beef, sold cheap fast food, put in
a 90-hour week. Her offspring swelled. She fed
the world, wept rain, scattered the teeth in her head
for grain, swam her tongue in the river to spawn,
sickened, died, lay in a grave, worked, to the bone,
her fingers twenty-four seven.
we have been taught first
to pray to you as Father.
Yet we know that you
O Holy God are also Mother.
Help us to pray to you
as both Father and Mother.
Today we especially give thanks
Hear our silent prayer,
hear our quiet remembering,
listen to the beat of our hearts
made possible by the beat of our mother’s heart.
Remove from our thinking all stereotypes, and let
us together endeavor to build a society which treasures
the gifts and talents of all, and let us make sure that
opportunity and possibility are for all. Amen.