Monday, December 26, 2016

My Mother was a Boat - Day 24 - Sara Dowse

Sailing was my mother’s passion,
that is how I  imagine her,
a beautiful swift ketch breasting the Pacific,
scowling or sparkling, as was her way. 
Blue was her favourite colour, she told me,
the bracing blue of the sky on the open sea.
She bought herself a twenty-two foot yacht,
plied up and down the coast of California,
across to Santa Catalina,  
setting off a trail of emotion 
like a boat lifting anchor
triggers a wake of frothing waves.

From the start a performer, 
for as long as she could remember
had wanted to be an actress – actor being unheard of 
for a woman then.
Vivacious, spontaneous, kind, audacious,
pretending to be shy, or perhaps 
the shyness was genuine, as she declared,
my not yet understanding that the drive to perform 
could be indeed a means of overcoming shyness, 
a shyness so disabling that only the pretence 
of being someone else could ever thoroughly dispel it. 

Faithless, fickle, feckless, female. 
Changeable as the tides.
My mother's face a flickering stream
of colour and expression,
the peepshow in our penny arcade. 
High-cheeked, confidently sculpted, 
and then the eyes, hazel on the documents,
no notion of their sparkle or their hovering
somewhere between the green and blue.
Small, she held herself erect, 
liked to turn heads when she entered a room.
I learned very young that looks are an actor’s capital,
subject to all the laws of investment and depreciation. 
She could be coldly, professional, assessing,
as with any possession, more of herself
bound up in it than admitted, perhaps even knew.

So, there it was,  the actor’s ineluctable vanity,
yet this too an act:  saying no to the face lifts, the eye tucks,
the reconstructing surgery that bought an aging actor parts.
There was that piece of her that cried enough to that too.
Female, feisty, changeable as the tides, my mother, 
a beautiful,l brave, double-masted ketch
breasting the ocean’s cruel waves.


  1. A wonderful portrait. Our mothers' generation had a hard time with all the family-bound expectations. I like this poem.

  2. Thanks, Susan - mothers do haunt us, one way or another.

  3. And I keep going back to the title - a beautiful poem in itself.

  4. An amazing portrait of a fascinating woman. Your compassionate insights, especially, about the ineluctable vanity which is also an act ring perfectly true ( brother is an actor).


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