Mother's Day

Six decades ago, I taught English and coached track at Southeastern High School.  Since this past September, I’ve been back at Southeastern in my new capacity as DPSCD’s 82-year-old  Poet-in-Residence teaching a Poetry class on Tuesday mornings and sharing some of my poetry with my students.  Given the fact that Mother’s Day is approaching, I’ve asked my students to write a Mother’s Day poem.  In an attempt to inspire them in this endeavor, I’ve written a Mother’s Day poem, too, even though I lost my own wonderful then-91-year-old mother Helen Telford twenty years ago.  My prayerful poem to my late mother is entitled, ‘Aquatic Dreams of Scenes Unseen’:

She dreams, in raptured reverie / Of waterfalls and revelry– / Of scenes unseen and multi-hued, / By bubbling brooklets never viewed. / She roams rain forests new and green, / And drifts down rivers blue and *clean. / She sees a white-capped tide arising / Beneath a bright and wide horizon. / She sails celestial, starlit seas / In universal galaxies. 

{*unlike the Flint River]

A maternal incident I particularly remember (about which I also much later wrote a poem) occurred in the 16th Street/McGraw neighborhood of my childhood and early teen years.. An epileptic of African origin one day lurched from porch to porch and portal to portal–striving to peddle pencils at portals that stayed forbiddingly shut.  Stumbling down a porch step,  he pitched onto the pavement and hit head-first.  With blood in an eye, he bent to un-scatter some pencils and staggered up the steps of OUR porch.  To my little four-year-old self, he was a frightful sight:  I fled from the porch into the house, slamming the door in his grimacing face.  My mother opened it, took him in, sat him down, washed away his grimace and blood, bought his pencils, and fed him.
My mother–a DPS kindergarten teacher for more than 40 years–was the kindest, gentlest, most loving lady I ever met, snd everyone adored her and was drawn to her. (The only person who was mean to my mother was the first of my three wives, but that was thirty yeers later.)
This isn’t to say that she was a pushover.  Multiple times she wore out her hands boxing the ears of her only son (me) when my various misbehaviors incurred her wrath.  Invariably, she would also fight injustice in any form whenever and wherever she encountered it.  She shared that character trait with her husband–my father John Sr.–a Scotland-born ex-coal-miner, ex-prizefighter, and bodyguard to UAW President Walter Reuther (a job from which he was fired for drinking).  I remember during the 1943 race riot my father saved a very old black man from being stomped to death by four white men in an alley near Stanton Street.  He carried the thin little old man to our house on 16th Street,  and my mother washed the bleeding old man’s soiled clothing (he had moved his bowels in his trousers during the beating).  My mother fed him, and my dad drove him home the next day.  Sadly, he died several days later.
My mother, who herself spoke only Danish until she was five, taught English to immigrants in night school.  Maybe if she had been Trump’s mother, she would have been able to teach him tolerance toward immigrants and give him some sorely-needed spankings early-on, so that now he wouldn’t be trying to expel nearly a million innocent residents who were brought here from other countries as children. I honor Helen Telford on this Mother’s Day and am deeply grateful that I was blessed to be her son.
Dr. John Telford is a recent DPS Superintndent and a former world-ranked sprinter at WSU.  Hear him Saturday mornings at 9:30 and Monday evenings at 6:30 on WCHB1340  AM.  Get his books at the Source Booksellers at 4240 Cass Avenue, Barnes & Noble stores, or at,  Contact him at (313) 460-8272 or,  Hi website is A Life on the Run


From the Web

PHP Code Snippets Powered By :