As My Mother Used to Say – A Poem

The Meeting at the Bar prompt over at dVerse Poets Pub today is to write a poem using common speech, the language of home. I immediately thought of a saying my mom used to use and that I’ve repeated more times than I can count.

As My Mother Used to Say

“It’s better than a poke in the eye
with a sharp stick,” my mother used to say
As if most everything isn’t better

I guess it was her way of reminding us
that we had it pretty good and shouldn’t complain

I remember talking one day to a stranger
who happened to share my mom’s maiden name
and in the midst of our conversation he said,
“It’s better than a poke in the eye
with a sharp stick!” Imagine my surprise

Turns out he came from the great state
of Michigan, same as my mom
That phrase had traveled from Michigan
to California to Washington to Oregon
Who knows where it went with him

I had a dog once who actually managed
to poke his eye with a sharp stick in the woods
Tore a cornea, then promptly pulled out the stitches
because we didn’t put on his cone of shame

Poor dog had to go under the anesthesia
a second time—it took enough to put
a doberman under, and he was just
a little cocker spaniel.

If anyone understood what was better
than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick
it was that dog

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32 Comments

Filed under Family, Life, Poetry

32 responses to “As My Mother Used to Say – A Poem

  1. Oh, poor puppy, I had a cocker… the “cone of shame,” ha ha…
    We used to say “better than a slap in the belly from a wet fish,” which I think came from a BBC program on PBS. Thanks for commenting on my “mom” poem as well! Peace, Amy

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  2. Ha…we say better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick or even more used….better than a slap in the face with a wet fish:)

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  3. ah – the wisdom of the elders – poor person or thing who has to periodically remind us 🙂

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  4. Too cute. Poor pub. My dogs hate those Elizabethan collars…the con of shame. Ha! As for Black Friday–no way!

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  5. …you reminded me of some figures in my life who meant a lot to me….thinking of them today made me smile…can’t remember all of their sayings, but it'[s true to form ;

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  6. Brendan

    Great response to the prompt, taking a folk adage and stretching it between family and culture and earth’s tribe. And leaving us to wonder, whose cone of shame is greater now? Some lessons indeed are durable.

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  7. Mitzy Zahm

    My mother said that, and now, a phrase that I find myself saying is, “I’d rather be poked in the eye with a sharp stick than…….(fill in the blank)….the last time I used it was on Thanksgiving, when I told anyone that would listen that I would rather be poked in the eye with a sharp stick than go shopping on Black Friday….or even the night before…on Thanksgiving!

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  8. Well I just read your poem aloud and we smiled and giggled because of course our moms had said that too. But the clincher was how well the dog came to know its meaning – really well done…that’s language for you!

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  9. Funny how those little phrases take on true meaning when you experience that situation. The sharp stick one is like so many I’ve heard that go in one ear and out the other. Your poem slowed it down and made me see what it means.

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  10. sentinelofnight

    I like how the wandering phrase hits hard reality with the dog. Sometimes it really does come down to a real stick poked into a real eye.

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  11. A poke in the eye with a sharp stitch is to watch out for. And when we do, we don’t take our view for granted. * smile*

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  12. Ya’ gotta’ love mom’s expressions. My mom had many. I always thought that they were Sicilian in origin since her parents were Sicilian born. Boy was I surprised to learn that most were Yiddish. How was I to know she grew up in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood… So who knew…

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  13. yikes…cant imagine actually taking a stick to the eye…that makes me squeamy…its funny some of the phrases that attach to different places as well…and when we run into again from someone else….its cool

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  14. Oh, I just love this. Great storytelling poem, with a nice wrap up at the end!

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  15. I have never heard that phrase, but I certainly understand its meaning. Not much would be worse than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. I keep thinking…poor dog who really DID endure such a poke. Fascinating how such expressions travel from state to state; and one wonders how they originate.

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  16. Each family has their own little sayings and we do not always know where they come from. I like your story about the Michigan stranger! So sorry about your dog.

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  17. Great anecdote! My parents both have rather idiosyncratic sayings, which sound even stranger when translated into English. ‘You see the straw in someone else’s eye and not the telegraph pole in your own.’ Or ‘Your calculations at home will never be the same as the calculations at the market.’

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    • Thanks. Your first quoted saying from your parents is very similar to something that is actually from the Bible. In Matthew 7:3, after telling the crowds not to judge others, Jesus is quoted as saying, ““Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” 🙂 Peace, Linda

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  18. Great saying…. it has the perfect irony in it… I really like that, and imagine that poor dog…. reminds me of something we said when I was young… “it’s better to be rich and weel than poor and sick”…

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    • Yeah, poor old Bo was neither rich nor well, though he was quite overweight at one time. And he had us who loved him so much, in spite of his many ailments, the stick in the eye being but one. I really miss him. He was a good dog. Peace, Linda

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  19. ouch…. a stick in the eye is no fun…. ha…my mom has a few sayings as well that i remember from my childhood and it’s cool if you meet someone along the way who just knows the same…lot of wisdom in most of them..

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