Parenting Poems by Kate Baer

Have you heard of Kate Baer? The Pennsylvania-based poet writes about the behind-the-scenes of parenting and marriage in such a real way, you can’t help nodding your head while reading. Here are three of her poems…

Deleted Sentences
Dear husband. Dear lover. Dear darling of my
heart. No, I do not want to attend the barbeque
scheduled cruelly over naptime. I do not want to
go to the recital either. Can you tell your sister
that too? In the morning I saw you dancing with
our daughter and for a moment, I almost cried.
I hate when people say I almost cried. Why even
mention it at all?

What time will you be home? What time do you
think you may be home? What time should we
wait for you outside on the lawn while the pasta
boils over and the baby cries because he misses you?
Oh, before I go — what time will you be home?

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if you
died and I had to write a eulogy while lost in my
grief. What would I say? And who would take out
the trash bins on dark Sunday nights or hold our
children while they cried through fever dreams?

What time will you be home?

Robyn Hood

Imagine if we took back our diets,
our grand delusions, the time spent
thinking about the curve of our form.
Imagine if we took back every time we
called attention to one or the other: her
body, our body, the bad shape of things.

Imagine the minutes that would stretch
into hours. Day after day stolen back like
a thief.

Imagine the power of loose arms and
assurance. The years welcomed home
in a soft, cotton dress.

What Children Say

I can’t reach my cup, my water bottle,
the snack up on the shelf. I can’t do
it. I won’t do it. I would never do it
in a million years. You need to help
me. Help me faster. Do it the way
I asked you to. I don’t like pizza or
watermelon. I don’t like anything I
liked before. I do not want it. I do
not need it. I will never move up off
this floor. Do not help me. Do not
hold me. Do not sit down beside my
bed. I’m not sleeping. I’m not tired.
I’m too scared to fall asleep. You must
hold me. You must rock me. Do not
leave me all alone. I am thirsty. I am
hungry. I am too tired to put my toys
away. Do not be angry. Do not start
singing. Where is the butterfly I drew?
I’m still hungry. I’m still playing. Will
you leave me? Will you stay?

How beautiful are those?! And here’s a Q&A with Kate:

Joanna: When we started our Motherhood Monday column eight years ago, my goal was to write about the day-to-day reality of parenting. As Carl Jung wrote, ‘Loneliness does not come from being alone, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important.’ Your poetry reveals the behind-the-scenes of parenting with such honesty. Did you set out to do that?

Kate: The experience of motherhood is one of the biggest and most complex experiences we have in humanity. I started realizing that the vulnerability of talking about these themes — not the grandiose themes of parenthood, but the real intimate ones — is what leads to connection. The words just come out — the things we all do, that we all experience.

Do poetry ideas come to you as you’re going about your day — like, when you’re actually waiting for your husband to come home?
Yes, it happens all the time. It surprises me. I’ve even started to dream sentences. During the day, I jot things down on a piece of paper — or write a quick email myself so I don’t have to keep track of that piece of paper!

Do you have a favorite poem of yours?
My favorite that I’ve ever written is Motherload — about the make up of a mother, where all the things are in her body. I felt that really deeply.

How long does it take you to write a poem?
Deleted Sentences, which is by far that most popular, took me about 15 minutes. It was free flowing. Which is so frustrating because others will take weeks!

What other poets do you like?
When Mary Oliver died, I reread a bunch of her work, and it got me back into writing poetry again. And Ada Limón. She has beautiful, beautiful work.

What else has surprised you about this process?
People often say to me, I don’t like poetry, but I like yours. I take it as a compliment, but I always want to remind people that they probably do like poetry — you just have to find the form or poet that you like. It’s like saying you don’t like music because you listened to a genre you didn’t like.

Why do you connect with poetry?
Poetry is so boiled down, it’s straight to the heart. That’s what I love so much about it. It can be like reading your favorite novel in one paragraph.

Thank you so much, Kate! Kate is now working on a book of poetry, as well as a literary thriller. Cannot wait for both.

P.S. A favorite poem and three words that changed how I parent.

(Photo by Kate Baer.)