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By Rhina P. Espaillat

My mother’s mother, widowed very young

of her first love, and of that love’s first fruit,

moved through her father’s farm, her country tongue

and country heart anaesthetized and mute

with labor. So her kind was taught to do—

“Find work,” she would reply to every grief—

and her one dictum, whether false or true,

tolled heavy with her passionate belief.

Widowed again, with children, in her prime,

she spoke so little it was hard to bear

so much composure, such a truce with time

spent in the lifelong practice of despair.

But I recall her floors, scrubbed white as bone,

her dishes, and how painfully they shone.


Source: Poetry

Poet Bio

Rhina P. Espaillat was born in the Dominican Republic under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. After Espaillat’s father opposed the regime, her family was exiled to the United States, where they settled in New York City. She began writing poetry as a young girl, first in Spanish, then English, and has published in both languages.

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