My Mother’s Day

POETRY FORMAT, 15 May 2023

Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
14 May 2023

I am old now …
But not in my mind’s eye.
From my lifetime eye,
Millions of memories
Pass before me,
Struggling for attention,
Exploration, closure, place.

Faces, events, experiences!
Winning . . . losing,
Reminding me who I am,
Sources of meaning,
Sculptor of being!
Identity . . . identities.

Memories coded as images and emotions,
Regret, guilt, shame, anger;
Experiences inscribed,
Incapable of escape!
Each moment renewed!

I Am Two!

My Parents quarrel,
Mother in tears, sobbing,
Father sulking:
“Shut up!”
Something is wrong!

“We can’t go on like this.”
“Be quiet, damn it!”
Who said that?
Did I say that?
Who yells?
Who screams?

I Am Three!

Freshly poured concrete,
Dominates smell!
A basement – damp, cold!
“Why are we here?”
A gray place!
Poles, walls, wires!

Mother lights votive candles,
Urges me to be silent,
A finger pressed against her lips!
I see her face in flickering light.
An image I will keep for life.
A Babuska’d Madonna!
Soothing my fear!

Refuge in basements of unfinished houses,
Awaiting workers to depart,
Careful to avoid wooden lumber, nails.
How prophetic!
“Hold on to my hand!”

Mother opens a can of beans,
Feeds me with spoon!
“Did you pay the bill?” she asks.
Father turns away!
We are homeless!
Now I know,
But not then!

Blankets spread on a damp, cold-concrete floor.
“Go to sleep now, Babe!
Say your prayers.”
I do as I am told!
“Now I lay me down to sleep . . . . “
Do my words comfort her?
What do they mean?
“Could I die before I wake?”
Could she?”

I Am Four:

We walk to the bus stop!
I hold my mother’s hand.
We stop! Await another!
We step from the bus,
Mother holds me,
Always the smile!
“It is okay!”

We walk an unfamiliar street,
Big buildings!
No words spoken,
It is night,
It is cold,
I am afraid.

Now I know the story!

But then it was a movie!
Actors playing parts!
Too much to understand!
“Do as you are told!
Do not cause problems!”

We walk South on Euclid Avenue,
Stopping at 86th Street;
Mother looking for an address,
A torn sheet of paper in her hand!
Regency Hotel!”

We pass a Black man begging on the street.
She opens her coin purse,
Gives him some money!
He says: “Thank You!”
She smiles!

“I feel so sorry for them, Babe.
They have nothing.”
We pass a White Castle Restaurant.
White tile everywhere,
Bright lights,
Haven from night!
Single shining star!

“I am hungry, Mommy.”
We go inside,
Sit on two counter stools.
Mother orders a 15 cent hamburger and 10 cent hot chocolate for me.
A cup of coffee for herself!
She wipes my nose with a napkin!
Takes another napkin for herself!

Fifteen years later,
I go back to this place that sealed my fate.
The scene is etched in my mind.
I remember everything!
Place, meal, smell, people!
I search for restaurant and hotel,
Spying them from my car window, 
I stop!                                     
Paralyzed by memory!

“Eat, Babe!
“It is good for you.”
We depart,
Return to cold night air.
Mother covers my face,
A wool maroon scarf . . .
Draped around neck, mouth!
Keep out the cold!

We walk until we reach an apartment building.
The door is locked.
An expletive!
“Oh shit!”
We wait.

A man comes, enters,
My mother smiles:
“We lost our key,”
How could he turn us away?
Madonna and child!
Once again!

We enter,
Walk up two flights.
Mother looks at numbers on the door
Here it is: 204.
She knocks.
She waits.
I watch.

A mystery unfolding!
Sealing my fate!
A door opens,
A man — my father!
Under shirt and socks!
I know him!
I do not know him!

Mother kneels in tears,
“Joe, please come back.”
“We need you.”
“Babe needs you.”
“Please, Joe!”
“Get the hell out!
Leave me alone!
Get outta here!”

In the background,
I see a woman:
Blonde hair!
In a slip!
I turn away.
Stare at the ground!

The door slams shut!
Mother continues to kneel!
Wiping away tears.
I hear sobs!
I do not look!
I remember!

I Am 62 Years Old . . .

Mother dies in my arms!
In a hospital bed,
I cry!  I sob!
“Mom, I love you so much.
Thank you, Mom!Thank you, Mom!
Mommmm . . . . . !
No!  No!  No!


Mother’s Day – May 10, 2015;  May 14, 2023: 

I am old now . . . 82 Years Old. I remember every November 4, as my Mom’s Birthday. I remember every November 19, as her passing. How could I forget?

Together we struggled. My Mother: hugging, holding, loving, protecting, encouraging, advising.  Doing everything she could to make sure I would be well, even as she survived amid suffering, content with simple transient pleasures.

We spoke Sicilian, but knew Italian! AMACORD!


A version of this poetic essay is published in Anthony J. Marsella, (2016). Poems Across Time and Place: A Journey of Heart and Mind.  Mountain Arbor Press, Alpharetta, Georgia. ISBN: 978-163182-040-2

Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Emeritus Professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa Campus in Honolulu, Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu.  He is known internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 21 books and more than 300 articles, tech reports, and popular commentaries. His TMS articles may be accessed HERE. Emails: or


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 15 May 2023.

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