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Poetry Friday: Earth, The Ultimate Mother

Natalie Bryant-Rizzieri

In this Mother's Day edition of KNAU's Poetry Friday segment, listener Natalie Bryant-Rizzieri reflects on the concept of mothering. She is mother to 3 sons and believes there are many ways to "mother"; not just children, but animals, gardens, creativity and ideas. And, she believes Mother Earth deserves the greatest honor for mothering all of us. Here is Natalie Bryant-Rizzieri with her original poem, 'Camping at Rattle Burn - Or An Unorthodox Prayer for Rain.'

Natalie Bryant-Rizzieri

This poem is an interesting poem to read in thinking about Mother’s Day because there are many mothers in this poem. There is Mother Earth, there is myself as a mother, and I think that one of the things that I’ve thought a lot about in life is that there are so many different kinds of mothers. There are people who mother their work and who birth books or creative projects. And there’s Mother Earth that holds us all. And then there are mothers that have lost children and that this day is dark and grievous for them. And then there are mothers that have beautiful children that get to live and are alive in the world and change their perception of the world.

So, this poem is about the sense of Mother Earth and how she sees us and how she holds us in this time of transition. And then I’m also seeing Mother Earth through my children’s eyes, and I’m asking this question of, ‘Could we not have seen so much chaos and damage to Mother Earth if we had known her more intimately. If I had known her more intimately, could I have done something different?’

Camping at Rattle Burn – Or An Unorthodox Prayer for Rain, by Natalie Bryant-Rizzieri

Twenty (furious) blossoms redden on claret-cup cactus.

Our hammock rests between two ponderosas—

their tips are brown, (thirsting).  The forest is (dry)

basalt soil fine as chalk dust. (We need rain). 

Our campsite is named for a forest fire that burned

sheep fescue and 286 hectares.  Forty-six years later,

we balance on (charred) logs, making games

(out of wreckage), spend all morning walking the (dry)

arroyo, piecing together the story of water, (a history).

Silas asks when he crouches down next to bare

beginnings of lupine: Does Mother Earth like (fire)?

Metal?  Salt?  Asters?  Us?  And I thought of the man

who pours his first sip of morning coffee onto the ground—

mud blessing.  He wanted to give something back.

I want this for myself, for my children, smothered in grit. 

Marshmallow sweet-and-grime, smooth brome clings

to diapers and (dread)s slowly form in their hair.

These are the layers: sandy loam soil over Kaibab

limestone riddled with fleabane daisies, stringent rules

about where we could camp, Coconino sandstone,

no campfires, no more desert sand verbena, the sky wide

and (plain and simple) blue.  (The local levels cannot

even measure this unrivaled level of fire danger.)

Meanwhile, the children gather pink-and-white stones

we cannot name and lambs ears like gold.  I wonder:

if we knew more names, would this land be so dry? 

This is what I know to do: (greedily) hoard the names

of all that is beloved, forage and herbage included,

that they will come to be stored in that part of the brain

where we keep treasures so that when we call for one son,

we rattle off the other son’s names before landing his. 

Poetry Friday is produced by KNAU's Gillian Ferris. If you have an idea for a segment, drop her an email at