I led several writing groups using Michael Anthony’s “American Soldier.” The poem is among many brilliant pieces of writing in Warrior Writers’ most recent anthology, After Action Review (check Warrior Writers out here). This prompt came from Lovella Calica of Warrior Writers and it really got people going–we were even able to put together a little in-house chapbook from it. The direction I gave was to write quatrains (4 line stanzas):
1. When I say I am…
2. I’m not saying…
3. I’m saying…
4. (expand upon 3)
My poem’s after the jump–I arranged it as a prose poem. I wrote several versions–after the different things I am–woman, artist, daughter and the one below, mother. Write a bunch of these, I’m telling you. It’s a great way to get thinking about what expectations you’re trying to live up to or discard.
When I say I am a mother, I’m not saying I am a martyr. I’m saying that I am responsible for their lives even as I’m trying to find a way to live my own.
When I say I am a mother, I’m not saying that I know all there is to know about them. I’m saying that I am trying to learn who they are and teach them who I am.
When I say I am a mother, I’m not saying that I know how to navigate this vast sea. I’m saying that I must appear certain, must act as an anchor or at least a buoy to give them something to cling to when they are overwhelmed by the waves.
When I say I am a mother, I’m not claiming that I’m shaping the future of the world. I am saying that I am terrified that the world I am giving them to will fail them. And that because I am their mother, it will be my fault.