My Mother
Robert Mezey (b. 1935)

My mother writes from Trenton,
a comedian to the bone
but underneath, serious
and all heart. "Honey," she says,
"be a mensch and Mary too,
it's no good to worry, you
are doing the best you can
your Dad and everyone
thinks you turned out very well
as long as you pay your bills
nobody can say a word
you can tell them to drop dead
so save a dollar it can't
hurt- remember Frank you went
to high school with? he still lives
with his wife's mother, his wife
works while he writes his books and
did he ever sell a one
the four kids run around naked
36 and he's never had,
you'll forgive my expression
even a pot to piss in
or a window to throw it,
such a smart boy he couldn't
read the footprints on the wall
honey you think you know all
the answers you don't, please try
to put some money away
believe me it wouldn't hurt
artist shmartist life's too short
for that kind of, forgive me,
horseshit, I know what you want
better than you, all that counts
is to make a good living
and the best of everything,
as Sholem Aleichem said
he was a great writer did
you ever read his books dear,
you should make what he makes a year
anyway he said some place
Poverty is no disgrace
but it's no honor either
that's what I say,

     In Robert Mezey's introduction to his mother's letter, he confirms his mother's love for him, "My mother {is} a comedian to the bone/ but underneath, serious/ and all heart." As the poem moves on, mother's letter makes it obvious that her son is in hard times and a good candidate for the "starving artist" title. However, any more insight on his character ends there, focusing more on Mother's personality than her son's.

     Initially, the poet's mother only seems nagging and sarcastic. Yet once the poem is read more carefully, pairs of lines acquire a loose rhyme and more obviously, mother's personality deepens.

     Mother loves her son in two obvious ways. First, there is a side of her that is "all heart" that wants her son to fulfill his aesthetic wants. Yet another part of Mother's personality is "serious" and practical, wanting him to "make a good living," and to have "the best of everything." This practical side sees her son's writing career only as a fancy or a whim with not much value in the real world. Though both forms of mother's love are most apparent throughout the poem, her sarcastic manner is also hard to ignore.

     Mother's "all heart" side, appears through the length of the poem mixed in with sarcastic instances. To begin with, she tells her son and his wife, "it's no good to worry, you/ are doing the best you can," but not long afterward her sarcasm reappears with practicality, "your Dad and everyone thinks you turned out very well/ as long as you pay your bills." Later her maternal instincts kick in, defending her son, "nobody can say a word/ you can tell them to drop dead."

     Mother cleverly uses Frank's case which is an extreme of her son's in her letter. It is most likely that her son sees himself in Frank who "still lives with his wife's mother {whose} wife/ works while he writes his books," and never sold one. Once more her sarcasm emerges, "such a smart boy he couldn't/ read the footprints on the wall." This mocking trend continues with, "you think you know all/ the answers you don't," and calls him an "artist shmartist." She sarcastic tone continues, "as Sholem Aleichem said/ he was a great writer. . . you should make what he makes a year."

     On a gentler but effective note mother closes her letter with a quotation from Aleichem, "someplace poverty is no disgrace/ but it's no honor either." Robert Mezey's mother, like most mothers, shows love for her child in many ways. In this case, mother advises her son with sarcasm, seriousness, and "all heart."