‘Mother’s Gold’ from Is My Body a Myth (2011) by Heng Siok Tian

11 May, 2020

Photo: ‘Playing by the beach’ from SRN’s SG Photobank

Little is known about the origins of Mother’s Day, celebrated on the second Sunday of May, despite its widespread observance throughout the world. Although usually regarded as a day to appreciate the contribution and devotion of a mother to her family, its bears greater significance.

In 1908, Anna Maria Jarvis, the founder of the modern Mother’s Day, held a memorial service for her late mother at her local church, now widely recognised as the   first-ever celebration of the modern Mother’s Day. Her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, was a peace activist who had cared for soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War and was an unrelenting advocate for civic movements to address public health issues. In the words of Anna Jarvis, a mother was someone ‘who has done more for you than anyone in the world’. The strength her mother displayed in her unflagging devotion to both maintaining a close relationship with her daughter despite them living in separate cities and advocating for humanitarian causes prompted her to advocate for the inauguration of Mother’s Day.

Similarly, ‘Mother’s Gold’ by Heng Siok Tian illustrates the strength of a mother’s character through her use of vivid and striking imagery. Heng’s use of consistent sibilance in her poem, coupled with the anaphoric themes of motherhood and money, highlights the long, arduous life of a mother as she fights to preserve, defend and protect her family. ‘Mother’s Gold’ ends by juxtaposing the life of the persona with that of the mother referred to in the poem, which are both described as ‘wild’. Heng’s portrayal of a mother thus gives us a greater appreciation of both the complexities of a mother’s nature as well as the sacrifices she is compelled to make.

Heng is an alumna of the NUS English Language and Literature Department, where she received her Master of Arts in English Literature. She has published five collections of poetry with Landmark Books: Crossing the Chopsticks and Other Poems (1993), My City, My Canvas (1999), Contouring, (2004), Is My Body a Myth (2011) and Mixing Tongues (2011). Heng also writes short stories and plays, one of which, Choice of Two Salads (ISBN Edizioni, 2005), was translated into Italian.

Read the poem here: http://www.poetry.sg/heng-siok-tian-mothers-gold

Get the book here: https://localbooks.sg/products/is-my-body-a-myth