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Mama had a worn out cloth bag
Hanging out on the line.
It was full of old clothespins
The wooden and the springy kind.

She used them when she hung the wash
Out on the line to dry.
I was too short to reach the line,
But that didn't mean I didn't try.

She said, 'Don't wish away a minute,
Time's such a precious thing.
You will reach the line in due time,
You don't know what tomorrow will bring.'

My Mother taught me to read
By reading poetry to me.
It was like shining a light in the darkness
Or teaching a blind man to see.

She taught me the value of work
To take pride in what I do.
Lessons she learned from her Grandmother
Lessons that I think are still true.

I watched her every move,
Whether it was cooking or sewing or crochet.
I didn't know I was learning,
I was just passing the time away.

Now I can reach the clothes line,
But I approached much of my life that way
Wanting to get to tomorrow
Just wishing my life away.

I wished away my yesterdays,
Trying to get to tomorrow.
Now if I could call back just an hour,
I would beg, steal, or borrow.

I would like to hear her laugh again.
I would like to see her smile.
I would like to sit and talk again
For just a little while.

Now Mama sits and sleeps a lot
As she slowly fades away.
I would trade ten of my tomorrows
For a little bit of yesterday.

Mama stopped talking a little while back,
I guess she said all she had to say.
She stares out the window most of the time,
It's the same thing day after day.

Daddy's doing the best he can,
It's a big job for just one man.
He feeds her and cleans her and talks to her,
But Mama doesn't always understand.

I feel completely helpless
It's a difficult thing to see
It's hard to be there for her,
But she was always there for me.

I know we own a debt to our parents,
But we pay it to our kids.
It's like being at an auction
Where no one gets to bid.

Sometimes I curse the clock,
Time's such a brutal thief,
It slowly takes away our days
And causes pain and grief.

I wished away so many moments,
Over so many years,
If I could call them back I would,
It would save so many tears.

I long to sit around the table,
And tell her Kelly is going to take a wife,
I want to talk about my family,
I want her in my life.

Today as I drove through my old neighborhood
I saw clothespins on our old line
I had to stop and write this down,
I had to make a rhyme.

I couldn't reach to help back then,
I thought growing up would change it somehow.
But it still seems beyond my reach.
I don't know how to help her now.

Submitted: Sunday, September 15, 2013
Edited: Monday, September 16, 2013

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

By Jim Hiner about his Mother with Alzheimer's

Comments about this poem (Clothespins by Jim Hiner )

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  • Bernard Snyder (12/11/2013 6:04:00 PM)

    Well-written poem about a very touching matter. Congrats'...Well deserved!

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Ravindra Kumar (12/4/2013 3:56:00 AM)

    Indeed! Thoughtful piece of work. I agree with the psychology of thy mind. Congratulations.

  • Anita Sehgal (11/30/2013 11:00:00 PM)

    so very beautiful and touching..

  • Malini Kadir (11/30/2013 12:54:00 AM)

    I almost lost myself to this disease......and in these lines and poetry... I realize how my family must feel

  • Rosmin Elsa Mohan (11/27/2013 12:32:00 AM)

    This is just amazing Jim...
    i particularly looove the lines,

    I know we own a debt to our parents,
    But we pay it to our kids.
    It's like being at an auction
    Where no one gets to bid.

    How true!

    Congrats once again!

  • Lorraine Margueritte Gasrel Black (11/22/2013 10:34:00 AM)

    how sad to watch your Mom wither away with that debilitating disease.At least you have good memories of your childhood.Always have hope for tomorrow's brighter day...lovely poem and congratulations on your win..

  • Pijush Biswas (11/20/2013 5:11:00 AM)

    wonderful poem..........mother and child relation.....good

  • Babatunde Aremu (11/14/2013 2:50:00 AM)

    This is a wonderful poem. It gives detail experience of a mother- child relationship. Very emotional

  • Luna Tsuki (11/9/2013 4:20:00 AM)

    A heartbreaking story sewed into a beautiful poem. Congratulations on your win.

  • Alexander Coppedge (11/5/2013 11:13:00 AM)

    A lovely story. Well expressed. Loved how you close this art. Simply wonderful. Very creative. Thank you. And congratulations.

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