Mother never taught you to strum tendons

And now mother is promising that you were

never born at all. Now mother is promising

that you had put yourself together, bit by

aching bit. Mother is a sinner no more,

mother is exonerated and you are silent

at her trial. You are making music on

tattered keys with bloodied hands.

And you cannot face yourself during it all,

repulsed by the music, you are

disgusted and lonely and deafening

(maybe, if you cause a constant cacophony

it might become part of the furniture. You might

be able to rest your newspaper there without

destroying your eardrums). Mother is deaf.

Mother is disinterested and you are resting

your weary arms. This instrument is heavy, your

breaths hold water. Your pages are empty,

you are trying to make something beautiful, you are

watching the terrible take place and

you are wondering how you might write some

pretty melody. You are playing your bruises.

The keys are out of tune, nothing here can be gorgeous,

the chair is creaking and you are becoming

part of the furniture. This is nothing appealing,

you have made nothing beautiful you have

put yourself together all wrong. There is

red where there should not be and your

vocal chords strum the wrong notes. And

mother knows how to carve bones to toothpicks

and knives but mother can’t help with scales. And you are

again a boy. Asking your mother to have made you.

February 2022 Prize Winner!

This poem won the Poetry Prompt Prize for February 2022. It is inspired by Karen Solie's writing prompt "Respond to Art”.


Poetry Editor Therese Estacion writes about "Mother Never Taught You to Strum Tendons" by Maya Mior: It is not easy to write poems about mothers. Yet, Mior has powerfully captured the tragic energy we often encounter when wondering, at the wake of our relationship with “mother”, how beauty can be held despite being put together all wrong.

Maya Mior

Grade: 12 / CEGEP I
Little Flower Academy
Vancouver, BC

“<div dir="auto"> <b>The piece</b>: Valeriya Lakrisenko&rsquo;s&nbsp;<i>Pianist</i></div> <div dir="auto"> <b>On the prompt</b>: The prompt emphasized the use of emotional descriptions, something which brought me less to the emotions which the art evoked in myself, and more to the conceptual emotions experienced by the subject of the piece. To me, his experiences seemed more like disappointment than anything else&mdash; some projected sense of underachievement which seems to weigh him down quite heavily. And the abstract sense of the piece, with borders less than defined, created a sense of a lack of grounding for the subject. As such, the conceptual &ldquo;Mother&rdquo; became the focus, and playing with the idea of her removing her own part in his creation, making him responsible for the suffering in his own life, left the subject drifting and distraught.&nbsp;</div> ”

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