For my mother

My mother is not the type to be bowled over by a bouquet of flowers on the door. She’d appreciate them, yes, but more than that, she wants a little chunk of my spirit, something meaningful. This year she asked for a poem. I began it yesterday as I volunteered at the Gibbon Conservation Center. My friend and I had the cush job — hang out in a shady spot under a tree, near a gibbon family compound, to make sure people didn’t throw food into the cage. It was an amazing exercise, spending hours watching these apes live their little lives in a wire cage, as they engaged us in conversation (“oooh, oooh, oooh”) and howled warnings to the world.

My short but profound time with the apes inspired my poem for Mother’s Day, to the woman who taught me, above all, that All You Need Is Love.


These monkeys, they pick at each other.
They swing and hang and end up in a big hug.
Tumble down the tree trunk in a pile.
Swing and hang.
They are family.
Swing and hang.

Mama moves neat and swift.
Baby clinging.
They belong together.
Neither will let go.
As they swing and hang.
Across a jungle canopy.
Swing and hang.

Mama will teach
How to play
How to eat
How to survive
In a place that is not always easy or kind.

Baby will learn
by example
how to love without reserve.
How to swing and hang
and not drop her own.

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Vanessa McGradyFor my mother

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