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Mother Poems

Mother Poems

Mother Poems by Duane L. Herrmann –

Mother Poems: Rest in Peace

She is dead now,
the Screaming One
who once gave birth
to more children
than she could raise
or nurture;
just one
would have been beyond her.
She is silent now,
her sharp, shrill tongue,
creating faults
and laying blame,
has finally ceased.
I am relieved
to see my mother go.
She is dead.

Her children now
can rest in peace.

Mother Poems: Just Breathing

It was odd to see
the breathing corpse
immobile, but alive,
resembling my mother –
That SHE
who terrorized my life,
tortured me
with screamed demands.
My mother? Really?
What am I to do?
I talked to her,
sat beside her
on her bed,
held her hand
then she held mine,
she’d never done before.
She could not speak
or move, but gave
more affection
than in sixty years.
I could regret
all we missed
and not fear
her anger.

I love you, Mom,
I’m sorry.

Mother Poems: Four Days Forever

The last four days
I saw her,
unable to talk,
I could finally speak
after being forbidden
for over sixty years.
I said more truth
than ever
of pain she caused
and found I loved her
and always had,
she held my hand,
giving more affection
than I’d ever known.

I love you, Mom.
I’m sorry,


I wrote these Mother Poems to attempt to process my mother’s relationship with me. The major question I had as a child was: “Why does my mother hate me?” I felt I was a piece of shit she couldn’t get rid of. Whenever she looked at me, she frowned.

Mother Poems: Boy Stop HandI was first suicidal when I was two. Her screaming about my defectiveness made me believe I had ruined her life. Thus, I thought her life would be better if I didn’t exist but at two, I couldn’t figure out how to cease to exist.

She spent the next decade and a half trying to destroy me and any independence and confidence I may have had. By age eleven I knew several ways to kill myself. I had experienced so much pain by then, and had been screamed at so often, that I ruled out any methods that would cause more pain, or that might not work. Sleeping pills sounded best: just go to sleep and never wake up! That was attractive. But, I had no access to such pills nor could I buy them or steal them. Gas was next. We had a double-size propane tank but I wasn’t certain there was enough gas in it to fill the house and kill me. Eventually, I gave up.

When I was sixteen I had two mental breakdowns and lost my sense of the physical world. I struggled to go through the motions of daily life. Tying my shoes was a struggle. I was saved by whispering pine trees in the front yard that soothed me and brought me back long enough to escape to college.

While in college I read about abusive relationships and learned that if a child knows that at least one person loves them, that knowledge will keep the child alive. I know my father’s parents (that whole family) loved me. In an instant I recognized the one way I could have killed myself, but some part of my brain must have blocked it out.

I had begun running away to my grandma’s house when I was two and a half. Her house was half a mile across the pasture. An account of my first successful but harrowing trip at two years old has been published. I learned, and remembered, a lot in the writing of that piece.

I try to transform my pain into insights that might help other people who have been in similar situations and increase awareness that parents can be brutal to their children. Another little boy in a situation like mine asked one day, “Will you love me if I’m dead?”  I couldn’t even ask. When I was four, my mother forbade me to talk. Instead, I eventually wrote notes to her. Now, I write poems.


Smashed face first
into the ground
I see
tiny grains of dirt.
With these
I make
small exquisite jewels.
I have nothing else
to use.

Mother Poems: Poet

As I’ve dug into my mother’s life I’ve discovered the reasons for her brutality. It’s a generational thing. Her mother didn’t have a mother. The mother before that also died when her children were young. My mother was abandoned and alone at three years old. The dominoes kept falling generation after generation. I have only one sister but she had no children, so maybe there are no more dominoes to fall.  I don’t know yet, but pray so.

My mother is a major topic of my writing. “Rest is Peace” is curious. I wrote it a year before she died, when there was no reason to think she would not live many more years. At that time I never imagined her death would be any more than just her absence. The other mother poems were written after her death when I was wrestling with the “more” that happened. In her last week my perception of her changed 180 degrees. She was helpless and obviously dying. In her helplessness I was able to see her as the child she was when her life went sour. She became trapped in the trauma her three-year-old-self experienced. No one helped her and she never grew out of it. I was simply born into her pain.

Now, I’m trying to get my bearings on a life without her screaming, critical interrogations and neediness. It’s very strange for me. One of my deepest prayers was to have some years of life without my mother’s presence, and now that that has happened, it isn’t what I expected. My own trauma didn’t die with her and the PTSD she gave me doesn’t help either. Every day is like free-floating, unconnected to any other day. I have only vague bits of any yesterday, but they still hurt.

About the Author

Duane L. Herrmann, born in Topeka, is a fifth generation Kansan who was farming on a tractor by age 13. His continued connection to the land is reflected in his stories and poems. An internationally published, award-winning poet, author and historian, his work has been published in a dozen countries in four languages. His books can be found in libraries in the US, Europe and the Middle East. He is an educator who has been adjunct faculty for Allen College and a university guest lecturer. His work has received the Robert Hayden Poetry Fellowship, the Ferguson Kansas History Book Award and included in the Kansas Poet’s Trail, the Map of Kansas Literature and American Poets of the 1990s. He has three full-length collections of poetry: Prairies of Possibilities, Ichnographical:173, Praise the King of Glory and a collection of short stories, Institor Gleg, in process. This, despite a traumatic childhood embellished with dyslexia, ADD and PTSD.

If you like “Mother Poems” by Duane L. Herrmann, read more therapeutic poetry on Dreamers Creative Writing.

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Mother Poems


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