Meditating on Mother’s Day and “Surface Tension (Andy Goldsworthy)” by Marilyn McCabe

Mother Earth, motherland, Mother tongue. With those words in mind, a connection can be made between ‘mother’ and ‘origin’. What happens when one loses their origin? Today we revisit an ekphrastic poem by Marilyn McCabe from Issue 49. This piece depicts the complexity of grief that a child endures when their parental figure is tragically affected by disease.

Andy Goldsworthy’s sculpture “Surface Tension” communicates the peace that the speaker imagines after the death of their mother. Since their mother’s passing is “surely less painful / than watching the tissue of her / memory tatter”, the speaker seems to have already lost the mother that they know and love. McCabe’s poem describes an incredible work of art but also feelings of despair and internal chaos.

For those of us blessed with healthy mothers, the thought of parental suffering is heavily avoided. To those who have experienced these painful endings, you are some of the strongest people in the world. As Mother’s Day approaches this Sunday, May 12th, we recognize our mothers at the very least for being our origin. Whether the holiday brings you joy or pain, Marilyn McCabe’s poem is a beautifully written but haunting reminder of the brief time we have with the people we love, letting us know the importance of honoring those who have made us who we are.

— Logen Crandall, Editorial Intern

Surface Tension (Andy Goldsworthy)

From horse chestnut stalks and thorns:
a lacy wall, one circle a more perfect open
than this revealed today: gape of old snow
around a sunken rootbed,
lichen-descried knot
hollowed in a downed limb,
a place in the pond where water stirs round,
faintly disrupting the forming ice,
and it’s absence I’m wishing for,
the hole of my mother surely less painful
than watching the tissue of her
memory tatter, her dogged cheer wear,
to wash clear her desperate eyes
of the do-not-let-me-go.

Marilyn McCabe‘s work has garnered her an Orlando Prize from A
Room of Her Own Foundation, the Hilary Tham Capital Collection
contest award from The Word Works resulting in publication of her
book of poems Perpetual Motion, and two artist grants from the New York
State Council on the Arts. Her second book of poems, Glass Factory, was
published in 2016. Her poems and videopoetry have been published in a variety
of print and online literary magazines. She blogs about writing and reading at