Martha Andrews Donovan was educated at Williams College (B.A.) and Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English (M.A.). She has been teaching for twenty-six years and is the recipient of several summer fellowships as well as the Charles P. Rimmer Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Pingree School. Her poems and essays have appeared in English Journal, Entelechy International, Green Mountains Review, Harvard Review, Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors, Marlboro Review, Off the Coast, the anthology The Breath of Parted Lips: Voices From the Robert Frost Place, Volume II (CavanKerry Press, 2004) and elsewhere. Her poetry chapbook Dress Her in Silk was released May 2009 from Finishing Line Press. She is Associate Professor of Writing at New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire where she lives with her husband and daughter, a world away from the India of her mother’s youth.
“Her Story” is the first poem in Dress Her In Silk, a collection of poems that places my mother’s dying of cancer in the context of her unusual childhood in rural South India as the daughter of missionaries. In this poem, I recall the stories my mother told me of the wild journeys from the plains of Podili up the Western Ghats to Kodai where she attended boarding school. As poet, I try to capture the audacity of youth that struggles to persist, even in the face of great suffering.
They were wild trips, those journeys
up the narrow ghats that wrapped around
the mountains of my mother’s youth.
The buses had no windows, no sides,
only poles from which my mother swung,
this child with a passion for the sudden.
Her missionary mother was sure
she would be flung down the steep side
of the mountain, lost to the wildness below.
What did my mother care of that?
She was a child, full of audacity;
she loved to hear herself shriek.
And now, tethered to her dying
bones, what would my mother give
for the sureness of her youth?
So let her drape her washcloth on her head
for a crown. Let her fling herself outward,
head first. Oh God, let her shrieks fill the room.
(from the forthcoming chapbook Dress Her in Silk, Finishing Line Press, 2009)
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