This next book is dedicated to the poet’s mother, and the first poem “I Remember” is about the mother who is an artist. The poet first describes the “washed out” or “tinted” light in the drawing room (in “bombed-out, post-war London”) in which she sits, “helplessly,” as a nine-year-old to be painted by her mother. Her mother’s brushes stick out of the jar like the “spines” of a porcupine, suggesting the artist’s prickly and self-protective attitude. When the poet is not being “composed” by her mother, she feels herself to be an “interloper” in this workroom. In the morning when she enters the room in her “high, fawn socks,”
the room had been shocked into a glacier
of cotton sheets thrown over the almond
and vanilla silk of the French Empire chairs.
To the poet, the mother covers her fine nature—those French empire chairs— with a cold exterior.
This poem marks a thematic change from the previous book. Night Feed analyzes and quarrels with the relationship between male artists and female workers, and with the relationship between female artists and the male-dominated tradition. “I Remember” pictures a powerful mother-artist and her uneasy relationship with her artist-daughter. The poem also marks a strategic move from the poet’s suburban present to an urban—and ruined—past. Instead of personalizing a mythic past, as in Night Feed, this poem mythologizes a personal past.