The Making Of A Man

I was born in the South a few years back,
in the dead of winter in a rundown shack.
We were poor, all right, but we had our pride,
and Mama took no handouts when my Papa died.

I'd just turned six, and Mom was forty-two;
with my Papa gone, I didn't know what to do.
Then Mama took my hand and put me on her knee,
and these are the words that she said to me:

"Now, son, we're poor, and your Papa's dead;
we don't have any meat and not much bread,
but we'll work the farm the best we can,
and we're going to make it, my little man."

We arose at daybreak almost every morn
to plow the fields and hoe the corn,
and the crops got bigger and we carried on
the best we could with my Papa gone.

The years passed quickly and I grew tall,
and Mama grew weary from the sweat of it all.
So I moved her to town on a lot with shade
and built her a mansion with the money we'd made.

Then in the dead of winter Mama held my hand
and said, "My son, you are now a man.
But don't you forget as the years go by
how it is to be poor -- now, please don't cry.

"My life's been full but my time has come
to meet your Pa around Heaven's throne."
I laid her to rest by the railroad track,
right beside my Papa near the rundown shack.

Upon her tombstone I had them say:
Here lies the greatest woman of any day.
She held her head high when life was rough
and never gave up when things got tough

The flowers are blooming around her still,
and the mockingbirds sing on top of the hill.
Many years have flown, but I always see
it was my Mama who made a man of me.

~Copyright 1994 Ruth Gillis

First published in the May 1994 issue of
Anterior Poetry Monthly


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