Every time I sit to write a poem, essay, or even a journal entry, I sense the collective muse of women from the past, whose courage and vision allowed my generation of women the luxury and privilege of putting our pens to paper. From the Suffragists to the feminists of the ’60s and ’70s to my own mother and her sisters, so many strong and encouraging voices pulse through me. Now I can also add to that chorus the voices of dear teachers, friends, siblings, and fellow poets and writers whose encouragement never wanes.
But the most powerful Minerva in my life is Earth herself who, for me, is a living presence. My own mother died when I was just 22, but during my childhood, she and my father showed me enough of nature’s marvels that I have never felt the loss of a nurturing presence. Each of my two poetry collections is dedicated to one of my human parents, but nearly every poem I write also contains a note of thanks to my third, omnipresent parent, the one who cradles us all—no matter how poorly we may treat her.
by Kate Hutchinson
At the side of the trail I see
a small patch of white clover,
and I am back with you, sitting
on the side stoop in ’63 or ’64
when there was only a meadow
between our house and the road,
with the vast forest preserve beyond.
We shared the clover with honey bees—
hundreds of them—plucking the tiny
petals and nibbling them for sugar.
You’d pick the largest dandelion—
a sunburst—and hold it under my chin,
saying the yellow reflection meant
I was as sweet as creamy butter.
The sky is sometimes still that blue, Mom,
and today the clouds stretch across it
like the giant feather boas we saw
on those lazy May mornings when
Janet and Rich were off at school,
baby Keith and cat lay napping inside,
and I was still a little part of you.
In time we saw the meadow plowed
for custom homes, the road widened,
the forest chopped apart for paved paths,
the creek dammed for a game-stocked lake.
What would you say if you knew that
now the clover fields and honey bees
have nearly all disappeared too?
This patch of clover seems a relic, from
a time when earth was more than ground
beneath our feet. You showed me my
second mother—one who fills me with
the wide blue sky—and still you drop
sweet nectar on my tongue, even all
these years since you’ve been gone.
Kate Hutchinson has spent the last 31 years among teenagers, teaching English at Buffalo Grove High School. For the last 2 summers, she’s also taught poetry to adults at National-Louis University. Kate’s new book of 50 poems and prose poems, Map Making: Poems of Land and Identity, centers on life in the mash-up of urban and rural that is suburbia. Spanning past, present, and future scenarios, including the already extinct (such as passenger pigeons) and the soon-to-be extinct (such as humans), Kate’s poems urge us to pay closer attention to the beauty and fragility of the living things that remain. Find more of Kate’s work at her Word Press site, Poet Kate Hutchinson.
Photo by Kate Hutchinson, “Mother Nature sends a lovely good-night wish to the Midwest”