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My mother was like the bees | Poem by Jeanne Wagner

I don’t think we’ve ever published a poem about a drinker. Though there are lots of poems on this topic, many of them are too judgmental for my liking. But here’s one I like, by Jeanne Wagner, of Kensington, California, especially for its original central comparison.

My mother was like the bees

because she needed a lavish taste

on her tongue,

a daily tipple of amber and gold

to waft her into the sky,

a soluble heat trickling down her throat.

Who could blame her

for starting out each morning

with a swig of something furious

in her belly, for days

when she dressed in flashy lamé

leggings like a starlet,

for wriggling and dancing a little madly,

her crazy reels and her rumbas,

for coming home wobbly

with a flicker of clover’s inflorescence

still clinging to her clothes,

enough to light the darkness

of a pitch-black hive.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetrymagazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Jeanne Wagner from her most recent book of poetry, In the Body of Our Lives , Sixteen Rivers Press, 2010. Poem reprinted by permission of Jeanne Wagner and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


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