Of Mothers, Among Other Things
The poet creates a vivid picture of his mother in this poem using images and words that evoke the senses and contrasts her youth with her present state. The first section of the poem portrays her in her youth. The second section deals with her middle age and the final section describes her old age.
The twisted blackbone tree evokes, in the poet, olfactory images of his mother when she was young. The word 'twisted' suggests that the tree is now old like his mother and was probably tended by her when it was a young tree. Her youth is compared to ‘silk’ and a ‘white petal’, both of which are soft and tender and exactly opposite of the old and rough twisted blackbone tree. The sparkle of the diamond studded in her ear rings is compared to needles being splashed. The metaphor pictures mother as beautiful, bright and lively like the splashes of light of the diamonds. He can recall his mother full of energy running from the rain, probably engaged in some work, to the cradles to tend to her children. The rain is pictured as sewing loosely with its lengthy drops the tasselled blackbone tree. The rain symbolises difficulties in life that try to stitch in and contain one’s energy and enthusiasm in life. Yet his mother faced them resolutely. This is indicated by the comparison of her dexterous hands to an eagle's black pink-crinkled feet with talons that are effective and precise.
The second section continues with the comparison but introduces a shift in mother's abilities. One of her fingers (talon) has been crippled by a rat trap, a handicap indicating lessening of efficiency as she got older. The next lines show that the vagaries of life and motherhood have had their effect on her as a middle-aged woman. This is pointed out by the statement that her saris do not cling to her, instead, they hang loose. She has become thin and weak denoted by the metaphor ‘loose feather of a one time wing'
The final stanza begins with the poet stating that he experiences a gut level, raw feeling/taste (‘tongue licks bark in the mouth’) of the incomprehensible 'motherness' of his mother even in her old age when he sees her slowing moving her four still sensible fingers to pick a grain of rice from the kitchen floor. This shows that she is still mentally agile though physically weakened and is in charge of the affairs of the house.
An Interpretation from Mr Doyal
With the "twisted black bone tree" I interpret the similarity that the poet is trying to project between the rough bark of the tree weathered with time but at the same time the life and all that a tree witnesses over its lifetime. It stands still and sees all that happens around it silently and continues to do its own bit...mutely, never complaining … only seeing. So is the situation of a lady particularly in the Indian system of things. The tree of the Indian woman which could have flourished into a beauty has been twisted and hurt over and over again to the extent that it is left with nothing but only its sense of duty and responsibility.
I'm Ananya Sethi, a student from your house 'Dhansiri' when you were teaching at the Assam Valley School. I was recently searching for a summary of the poem ''Of Mothers, Among Other Things' and Ifound out the summary wriiten by you. It was excellent except that the summary has very little comparison to the eagle where if one reads the 2nd stanza of the poem, there's reference to the eagle in 2 more lines.
I'm now studing at DPS Guwahati , in the Science stream and I'm appearing for boards this year. I thank you for everything you and Ma'am Patrick (who was our tutor) had done for us while you were at AVS.
Another interesting interpretation by Shweta:
I would like to add my interpretation of the last few lines. I feel that through those lines the poet is also expressing his guilt. He took his mother for granted as almost all children do. Even the title "Of Mothers, Among Other Things" suggests that we consider our mothers as ordinary as the other things in life. But when the poet sees his old and frail mother bend down to pick up a grain of rice despite her injured finger, he is overcome by guilt and sorrow.
Honey, one of the readers gives an interpretation that seems to be apt:
I think the rain personified as a tailor who in vain tries to stitch rags with broken threads. It is also used as a metaphor standing for mother who is the cementing factor trying to keep family intact without getting fragmented, by stitching the holes & cementing the cracks by acting as a unifying factor
If you think this explanation has helped you, kindly donate money to the orphanage for girls that my friend runs. You can know about it at https://sites.google.com/site/annaineomianbuillam/