Tuesday Poem-My mother at 91 by Diane Brown

‘Your mother’s house has no windows

and her clock was missing numbers;

looks like dementia,’ my father

said. Four years on, he’s dead; she’s 91

living at home alone, burning

the bottoms clean out of pots. ‘None

left for you to inherit,’ she says. Today

her slow cooker’s taking too long

to cook corned beef, there’s a summer

storm and according to her, they’ve turned

the power down, reduced its potency,

‘only in Henderson, mind.’ Everything

is political or conspiracy. ‘In Remuera,’

ovens burn hot as ever. ‘Philip says

the bad weather follows us wherever

we go, ‘I say. ‘Follows him, not you,

don’t you take the blame,’ she responds

not missing a beat. Makes me wonder,

if she was pretending all along,

deliberately omitting windows

and numbers in the doctor’s clinic.

Dottiness being one way to escape.

Diane Brown

This is an unpublished poem which Diane has generously given me permission to share. She says, ‘No poetic licence was needed for this poem. My mother has always had interesting things to say though these days she repeats herself a lot. She hasn’t read this. ‘You can’t eat poems’ she once said to me, thus summing up her attitude towards poetry. It hasn’t stopped me.’
Diane’s comment sums up what is for me the clarity, humour and extraordinarily openness of her writing.

Diane Brown’s publications include two collections of poetry (Before The Divorce We Go To Disneyland, Tandem 1997—winner of the NZSA Best First Book of Poetry at the Montana Book Awards 1997 ; Learning to Lie Together, Godwit 2004), two novels (If The Tongue Fits, Tandem 1999; Eight Stages of Grace, Vintage 2002—a verse novel which was a finalist in the Montana Book Awards 2003), a travel memoir (Liars and Lovers, Vintage 2004) and a prose/poetic work, Here Comes Another Vital Moment, Godwit 2006. She is currently writing a novel, Hooked and is the co-ordinator and tutor for Creative Writing Otago.

I first met Diane when I joined her course for the Advanced Diploma of Writing in Dunedin.. class  of 2005.  We were  a  a diverse group of ten women at different stages in their lives and writing careers.  I think we were quite challenging!   One of the gifts Diane gave us was the idea of going on artistic dates…i.e. going to an event, or place which stimulated our thinking or made us think outside the square as writers. I’m sure lots of us do this unconsciously but to give it a name and a purpose was very useful.   I am eternally grateful for this and believe it or not Inland Revenue accepts the idea as well. Visit Diane’s website for more about her poetry and some great tips on writing.


Return to the Tuesday Poetry Blog  and dive into the side bar for an incredible variety of edible poems. And be sure to read editor for the week Helen Rickerby’s choice; a selection from Helen Heath’s new book, Graft.


14 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem-My mother at 91 by Diane Brown”

    1. Thanks for visiting, Mariana. Dottiness is uplifting in this poem isn’t it. And re ellipsis…thankyou for reminding me what it’s called. Another lovely word.:-)

  1. … not missing a beat. I love that part. There is a kind of lightness to this poem, despite its starting (and finishing) point. Thanks for sharing this here, Helen. Really enjoyed the poem and your story of meeting Diane and her poetry.

  2. Thanks for sharing this poem – I like the dottiness and the way it is framed, but most especially the way it ended on the powerful idea of escape.

  3. I love the ‘artistic dates’, Helen – what a great idea to name these acts! I loved the rambling voices, the backwards and forwards, the wittiness of the mother voice. Wonderful stuff. Thanks for introducing me to Diane’s work!

  4. There’s an unusual amount of direct speech in this poem, isn’t there? Almost like a little play. Seems that ignoring the clock and having her own ideas about weather keeps this woman powering on (despite the conspiracies)! Thank you for posting.

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