Monday, April 25, 2011

i think i hear feet

she fed you rice she brought home
in exchange for the hours in the fields
she fought for you
and cried and prayed for you
she worked until there weren't
any hours left in the day

her skin leathery on her back
and fine on the top of her hands
she knew you had to work too
at the tile factory or the ice factory
plucking coconuts or unloading trucks
or at the riverside drying somebody's fish

but she also met your
school teachers each month to know
how you were doing and begged them
to help you extra because
you were 'clever' unlike her and 
would get good jobs in the city

on scholarships, all of you
left to the city
her voice, her passion were now yours
you are doctors and engineers
and teachers and social workers
and some married to rich foreigners too

why haven't you fought over her
about who gets to look after her
why is she here in this greyness
where the walls are so high
she can only see the sky
and tops of trees she can't recognise

she pretends to go out for a stroll
right up to the middle of the corridor
so she may watch out for you through her cataract
she doesn't see you come crashing through
to her waiting heart
like you did when you returned from school

the disturbing dream
in the middle of your siesta
the vision just before you
start your presentation
could it be her memories reaching to stir yours
do you then tell yourself
it's just a dream
she is too old to feel

when you look at her wrinkled skin
don't you see the sorrow
that hides in its folds

© 2011 Padmavani Karkera

This poem is inspired by Greg Laychak’s photo prompt at the Sunday Picture prompt Challenge on One Stop Poetry 

Greg Laychak is what is known as a documentary photographer. Originally from Canada, Greg has since moved to South Korea, where he created his prominent work, “Fading Voices” – a photo documentary project about victims/survivors of sexual slavery from WWII. Greg’s work often focuses on the concept of identity, a fact that hovers, almost hauntingly, through many of his photographs.You could continue to read this interview at

Also visit Greg at his website


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I'm leaving in a minute for some Easter visting with an elderly neighbor, so this poem's appropriate reading. I like the lilting quality of the writing, the story is natural and the "Why"'s move things forward well. My suggestion is slight, I think. The "that" in the next to the last stanza stopped me cold. Maybe take it out, and combine the next line with the first, with a comma there? And the last stanza: the meaning of the word "miss" is unclear. Could you change it to clarify it? Happy Easter!

  2. Oh jeez! Thank you for that :)

    Yes I need to rework the sentence and i know what you mean. I seemed to made a mistake in the last stanza.. I will make the correction... Thank you Rebecca, really appreciate your inputs.


  3. Very touching and honorific piece. We should venerate our elders in our society like we used to... not make jokes of them and shut them away in care homes. Thank you for writing this

    Luke @ WordSalad

  4. Heartfelt... we need to spend more time honoring our elders, listening to their lessons...

  5. this is a stirring piece...once their service is done in raising us to flee the nest they are often forgotten...sad

  6. Through listening comes wisdom. Of which there is much in this poem.

  7. "so
    why haven't you fought over her
    about who gets to look after her"
    A very powerful turning point. Your piece stirs many emotions.

  8. So true, so many forget that fight, are uncomfortable with the loss of a stereotype, but many too remember, as you so obviously do and for those lots of praise. This is a strong and well-written poem, full of truth.

  9. This poem is a glorious echo of what we all should feel. I also have seen and been horrified at what adult children have left their parents in once they get older. Their parents did everything for them, but when old they are left to rot in a nursing home - I have worked in those places and even in the best the care is far from satisfactory. Thank you for writing so poignantly and so powerfully about this extremely serious issue of our time. Amazing work, Padmavani at her best!

  10. so sad when we forgot what they have done for us - and what would we be without them...thanks for that beautiful reminder padmavani

  11. You're welcome. It reads much better! I see something else that sticks out now. The "So" that starts the fifth stanza. It might scan better as part of a line with other words. Also, in the next to the last stanza, that needs to be "stir", not "stirs".

  12. Correct about the stirs :) missed that...Thank you!
    Thought about the 'so', I will retain it, I need the big break there and making it a part of the second line, in my opinion will dilute the effect that I intend to create i.e. 'A very powerful turning point.' as Dustus says.
    Really appreciate your time Rebecca, normally I spend some time with the poem. But with this one, I typed it out on notepad and did a copy paste into the blog all in an hour's time, ran a cursory eye once and published the poem.
    Thanks again.

  13. Very well crafted and a poignant reminder to honor our elders (and each and every stage of life for that matter). Thank you Padmavani.

  14. Lovely, thought-provoking poem, Padmavani! I'm so grateful we haven't had to do this in my family. My heart goes out to the seniors who do suffer this sadness.

  15. Rebecca, thank you! Luke, Welcome and thank you for letting me know. My regular, kind and generous visitors Relections, Brian, Elizabeth, Dustus, Claudia, Joy, Steve, Cathy and Shari and huge thank you!


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