Verse > Anthologies > Jessie B. Rittenhouse, ed. > The Little Book of Modern Verse
Jessie B. Rittenhouse, ed. (1869–1948).  The Little Book of Modern Verse.  1917.
30. Songs for My Mother
By Anna Hempstead Branch
MY mother’s hands are cool and fair,
  They can do anything.
Delicate mercies hide them there
  Like flowers in the spring.
When I was small and could not sleep,        5
  She used to come to me,
And with my cheek upon her hand
  How sure my rest would be.
For everything she ever touched
  Of beautiful or fine,        10
Their memories living in her hands
  Would warm that sleep of mine.
Her hands remember how they played
  One time in meadow streams,—
And all the flickering song and shade        15
  Of water took my dreams.
Swift through her haunted fingers pass
  Memories of garden things;—
I dipped my face in flowers and grass
  And sounds of hidden wings.        20
One time she touched the cloud that kissed
  Brown pastures bleak and far;—
I leaned my cheek into a mist
  And thought I was a star.
All this was very long ago        25
  And I am grown; but yet
The hand that lured my slumber so
  I never can forget.
For still when drowsiness comes on
  It seems so soft and cool,        30
Shaped happily beneath my cheek,
  Hollow and beautiful.
My mother has the prettiest tricks
  Of words and words and words.
Her talk comes out as smooth and sleek        35
  As breasts of singing birds.
She shapes her speech all silver fine
  Because she loves it so.
And her own eyes begin to shine
  To hear her stories grow.        40
And if she goes to make a call
  Or out to take a walk
We leave our work when she returns
  And run to hear her talk.
We had not dreamed these things were so        45
  Of sorrow and of mirth.
Her speech is as a thousand eyes
  Through which we see the earth.
God wove a web of loveliness,
  Of clouds and stars and birds,        50
But made not any thing at all
  So beautiful as words.
They shine around our simple earth
  With golden shadowings,
And every common thing they touch        55
  Is exquisite with wings.
There’s nothing poor and nothing small
  But is made fair with them.
They are the hands of living faith
  That touch the garment’s hem.        60
They are as fair as bloom or air,
  They shine like any star,
And I am rich who learned from her
  How beautiful they are.


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