Tina Parker

Obsessions---The path of a poem, part 1

Date of Post: 
Wednesday, December 30, 2015

To trace the roots of a poem today, I look to an exercise on recording obsessions. During a workshop with Katerina Stoykova-Klemer, she encouraged us to explore our obsessions--what roles do we play? What voices play and replay in our minds? This exercise took me immediately to the mother role; specifically, the pressure put on moms to "be" a certain way and how that picture-perfect role truly looks in the messy day-to-day reality of caring for young children. There are books and blogs and articles telling mothers the best way to speak to our children--advice-givers at every turn tell us not to use the word "no," or similar negative language. Instead, speak in positive terms to name the behavior we want to see. Don't overuse praise; instead, talk about the hard work, the time given to a task. The list goes on and on; it is exhausting, and it is impossible to meet these expectations.

The "obsessions" exercise opened the door for me to address this conflict between who I truly am as a mother vs. what I'm expected to me. I began to write down what I said to our young daughters; in particular, those things I immediately felt guilty about saying. I wrote such lines down in my notebook for a week, and then I circled back later to shape the lines into the poem "Stop" which is the first poem in my forthcoming collection Mother May I.


No we’re not playing baby any more

Get up

You can walk

Use big girl words


Sit down or you’re not getting dessert

You have a napkin right there

Why are you wiping your mouth with your sleeve


Why are you doing that

Please let me eat

I need my arm

You’re hanging on it


Stop kicking her

You’re not going to bite your sister

We don’t hit


I don’t know why I plan things for you to do with your friends when you act like this

If you want to hear the song stop talking

Leave her alone


Just close your mouth and be quiet

I’ll tell you when to come out

I’m not ready to see you


We’re going to turn that off in a minute

You have five more minutes

No there are no more minutes it’s time to go

Come on I’m leaving


Just a minute

Get your hands off me

I don’t like the hitting hands

Use your words


No I can’t

You know how to put them on yourself

It makes my back hurt

Because I’m mean


first published in The Collapsar and the anthology Circe's Lament: Anthology of Wild Women Poetry