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.
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Poet's Notes about The Poem
Comments about this poem (Clothespins by Jim Hiner )
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- The Jolly Beggars: A Cantata, Robert Burns
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- Grief, Jeannette Heywood
- Ol' Pine Hill, Nate Morris
- Willie brew'd a Peck o' Maut, Robert Burns
- A Grace after Dinner, Robert Burns
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(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
(27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953)
- Heather Burns
(24 January 1572 - 31 March 1631)