ONE – Who I Am: Two Introductory Poems                                                                       

Who Do You Think You are, Sheryl Kay Oder?                                                1

The Woman and the Child                                                                                 2

TWO – Daily Life                                                                                                                   

The House was Big                                                                                           3

Teens Hanging Out                                                                                            4

Unimproved Road                                                                                              5

Nuts to Soup                                                                                                      6

THREE – People                                                                                                                        

Mother and Me                                                                                                  7

Daddy and Me                                                                                                   8

Michael David                                                                                                    9

Grandmommy                                                                                                  10

Tommy                                                                                                              11

Blessed                                                                                                             12

FOUR –  Reflections                                                                                 

One Man vs. Thousands                                                                                  13

When I Reflect                                                                                                  14

When I Met Jesus                                                                                             15



WHO I AM: Two Introductory Poems


Who Do You Think You Are, Sheryl Kay Oder?

Serious, at least
Half the time.
Energetic and driven,
Rarely. If you
Yawn, she will do

Klutzy at times.
Also often
Yields to wordplay.

Rhythm or rhyme.



The Woman and the Child

Some days the woman
and the child walk hand in hand.

Other days they wrestle for supremacy,
each victorious only when pinning
her opponent to the floor.

The child loves silly verse and
taking abstract shots of the Cloud Gate.
Don’t give her any chores.

The adult prepares dinner and pays bills.
She loves her Lord Jesus.
So does the child.




Daily Life

The House Was Big

The house was big
and I was little.
It had an enormous front door
and was three stories high.

On the third floor
lived renters
I either never met
or cannot remember.

Each Saturday I helped
my mother dust both
“wigwork”* and railings
of the winding stairs.

Hidden in a corner
of that old house was
a tiny room that held
my dolls and other toys.

*Wigwork is what I called the woodwork.



Teens Hanging Out

The pool was four houses away.
We must have stayed there all day.
We’d spread our legs out so wide.
Under each other we’d glide.
Why we did this I cannot say.

The custard stand was close by.
The hoagies were delicious—my, my.
The line there was long.
Teenagers did throng
considering what they would buy.

Park dances were on Saturday night.
Feet and fantasies both took flight.
See that cute, dreamy boy;
he’s looking at me—oh joy!
He’s coming—my heart is so light.



Unimproved Road

Adventures require less than ideal conditions.
The most direct route to Canyonlands
National Park was an unimproved road.

Rugged red mountains surrounded us.
The road’s rocks were smaller but just
as red. Where was John Wayne?

The borrowed Oldsmobile bounced
as Elizabeth restrained its errant wheels,
willing them to obey. What had she done?

A four-by-four emerged from the park.
Its driver warned of a difficult ride ahead,
but was returning easier? Elizabeth thought not.

We passed no one as the car crept along
the park road with no protective railing
between us and the canyon below.

When we stopped for some gas we
saw a sign that said:  “God forgives;
mountains don’t.” We agreed.



Nuts to Soup

My snack when I am hungry
is some kind of nut:
pecans, walnuts, pistachios,
or almonds, too.

On Saturdays and Sundays
I also put nuts in my
whole wheat pancakes
with dried fruit bits.

Pierogies and sour cream
remind me of my Polish-
Ukrainian grandma who sent
us home with leftover feasts.

Our quick-we-are-in-a-hurry
comfort food is the macaroni
and cheese entrée prepared
in the kitchens of Safeway.

It has been too long
since Dean has kneaded
dough for his homemade
bread for us to devour.

I think of Mother’s vegetable
beef soup as I use the barley-
box recipe for my own. I love
eating more than cooking.





Mother and Me

When I was young and dependent
she was Mommy, but when I
was sixteen that name embarrassed
me, so she became Mother,
one to be respected. Mom was
not an option I considered.

She was to be obeyed,
but often when she said no
to a request for a friend to
stay the night, my pleadings
changed her mind
reluctant though she was.

She thought my main job was school
and did not teach many housekeeping
skills, considering my lack of interest.
I was mainly required to set
and clear the table and to help
with Saturday morning cleaning.

I felt cared for as she worked
around the house. I knew I was
loved without a word. It puzzled
me when a friend once told her son
she loved him. She was his mother.
Loving is what mothers do.

I was never a rebellious teen,
but as a young adult I considered her
too possessive and smothering.
I refused to call her when arriving
at my apartment after dinner together, but
now my kids call me after they fly home.

She moved in when Michael was a baby
thirty-three years ago. For years she was
a live-in companion, coming home
on weekends. She could nag and interfere
as we tried to raise the kids, but she also taught
them to give as well as to receive.

Now at ninety-one she can still drive.
It is her main way of helping. At times she needs
our guidance when her sense of direction
is lacking. Her back hurts too much to stand
at the sink. She depends upon me for many things,
but she is still my mother.



Daddy and Me

He saw me when I was a tiny baby.
World War Two was winding down.
He fled to his parents’ home and for
ten days took shelter in his bedroom.

As a child I wrote to Daddy Mike,
but he did not write back. When I was
ten my daddy hunger was so great
Mother decided I must meet him.

Somehow my parents decided to
remarry, and I attended the wedding.
We moved to a simple ranch house
fairly close to his work and his parents.

We often took trips to visit my mother’s
dad and stepmother. Since I was an only child
we often included a friend for company.
Those trips were great fun.

It was good to have my daddy as a teen.
I felt his love then. He once bought
an old used-car office and fixed it up
as a hideaway for my friends and me.

For Christmas one year he gave me a coupon
for a one-time dish washing. I redeemed it
after a big gathering when he told me to
“go pearl diving.” He laughed and did those dishes.

After my high-school graduation, those days
were over. Mother and I went to my uncle’s to “visit.”
Daddy sold our house and packed our belongings
in barrels and shipped them to us.

I saw Daddy only once after that.
I was so excited I was shaking.
He died of heart failure at age forty-six.
My good memories have outstripped the bad.



Michael David

Squirreled away in the documents file
are the statistics of your life. You were
born and died on the same day.

Even though my bold footprints were small
—2 7/8” by 1½”, yours were barely visible
and smaller still—2” by ¾”.

Once I stepped over where they buried you
but there is no headstone. The cemetery
told us where they laid your remains.

Mother never saw you; they said it would
be better that way. Those who did told her
the two of us looked alike at birth.

It took my own son to create a hole in both
our hearts. As I see my children’s connection
with each other I now know what I have missed.




I remember little before the cancer. At first
she lay on the couch after work. Later I learned
the doctor was amazed she even got to work much less
could accomplish anything once she arrived there.

She then took to bed as my mother
watched over her. She feared surgery
and would not take any medicine.
Granddaddy cooked and did what else he could.

Toward the end they sent me to live
with Uncle Oscar and Aunt Laurie.
When Laurie left to help, Oscar cooked
us hot dogs and baked beans in the can.

I was surprised to see Mother’s tears
as she told me Grandmommy had died.
After all, wasn’t she happy her mom
was now living with Jesus in Heaven?




There are two old pictures of us.
One shows us sitting on the glider.
The other one points to our feet
and our dogs sniffing each other.

He visited his grandmother
next door. I must have adored
him, for I told everyone we
would marry. Then he ran.

I married Dean.




It says Postcard and is decorated
with sketches of flowers. On it you
had written a rarely received
note of encouragement.

My only memento of your life
sits on my desk and tells of
your appreciation of my
coming to church on the bus.

You told me my children
spoke with courtesy and
kindness to each other—
a conversation which blessed you.

You blessed me by just being you.
Faithfulness was your routine as you
also took the bus to church, loved
your husband, and raised your children.

At your funeral the pastor
praised you as one who always
welcomed new people in spite
of the pain from your cancer.

Your husband and children
called you blessed as do
many who have known you.
Enjoy the presence of your Savior.





One Man vs. Thousands

One man was killed
and a whole country
stopped what it was doing,
cried, and viewed a funeral.

Thousands were killed;
all saw the planes on TV.
I refused to cry, but sang
God Bless America instead.

Between those two events
others were assassinated,
there were riots, and movies
depicted unbelievable horrors.

Kennedy’s death felt so real—
my painful reaction, visceral.
Planes smashing the twin towers
looked like movie violence to me.

Was my not giving in to despair
that day a growing insensitivity
to violence or simply wanting
to thumb my nose at the terrorists?



When I Reflect

O, Lord, when I reflect on my failings:

my clueless moments as a mother
leading me to neglect responsibilities,

my tendency to be childish in wanting
play before work,

the year I promised my students if they
failed I would warn them, but I did not,

my rare but sometimes erupting anger over
a long-ago incident of public disrespect—

O, Lord, teach me to remember:

You, the sinless One took those sins
on your own body on the Cross.

You wasted not one moment of Your
suffering for the whole world.

You require only faith in You, repentance,
confession and turning from those sins.

I can achieve nothing by taking on
the pain and torture of regret.

If we confess our sins You are faithful
and just to both forgive and cleanse.

O, Lord, please forgive and cleanse.



The Day I Met Jesus

As the cup and the matzo were passed
I expected to receive some
but Granddaddy said no.
We would talk when we got home.

I felt sorry for myself, not because
I understood its meaning,
but simply that my eight-year-old
self hated to miss anything.

Later he explained that Jesus
had died to forgive me of my sins.
I needed to know Him as my Savior
if I wanted to join Him in Heaven one day.

Communion became a sermon to me.
Granddaddy said the broken unleavened
bread represented His broken body
and the grape juice, His blood.

That day I placed my faith in Jesus.
Who would not love and obey the One
Who loved me enough to be the sinless
sacrifice for my sins?

Nothing that has ever happened
to me is as significant as what
took place the day I truly met Jesus.
Later I could take communion.



23 thoughts on “THE WOMAN AND THE CHILD by Sheryl Kay Oder

  1. Sheryl, you had commented on Walt’s memoir chapbook that it helped you see just how well he writes. That is exactly how I feel about yours. This little 15-poem collection tells us effectively and beautifully who you are. “Michael David” remains my favorite from your memoir collection. “It took my own son to create a hole in both our hearts” mists my eyes each time I read it.

    Thank you for sharing yourself with us.

  2. Your collection only proves what I’ve believed all along. Nobody needed my collection to figure out how well they could do with their own. You have amassed a wonderful work here. As you have said of my chapbook, this project opened my eyes to how well you write yourself. And apparently, Marie agrees.

  3. Oh, Sheryl, I loved reading your Memoir-Chapbook! A few of the poems I treasured and remembered from reading them over the weeks: Teenagers Hanging Out, Daddy and Me, and Michael David. They affected me on first read and their power has stayed with me. Some I must have missed the first time or was too distracted to appreciate. This morning I was stunned by One Man vs. Thousands. You are such a talented communicator. Thanks so much for sharing these beautiful poems again. I love reading them all together as a fragment of you, rather than as a collection of responses to a prompt.

  4. Yes, Sheryl, the loveliness of the completed chapbook leaves me with such a serene appreciation of who you are. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Walt, thank you so much for making this collection look so neat and almost like a real book. Not only that, but you gave me a cover! If you need a new job, I think you could create your own self-publishing company. Bless your heart. You work so hard for us all.

    Thank you, everyone for your comments. This idea of Walt’s to put our poems together helps us understand each other so much. It also creates a memoir for those of us who never thought we could create such a thing.

  6. You’re welcome Sheryl. Everything you just said was the reason this project made so much sense to do. And the hard work was all of ours. You wrote a beautiful book, start to finish. Thank you, Madam Poet!

  7. Sheryl, great writing and great message!. I enjoyed reading this very much.

    I enjoyed yours too, Walt, though I failed to post.

    Looking forward to reading the rest.

    Thank you Walt and Marie for all you do. 🙂

  8. You told your story in such a lovely and thoughtful manner. I thought so as each poem appeared over the weeks of the Project, but the real effect comes only when reading through them in order, at one sitting. You did a wonderful job, Sheryl. I especially liked the ones about your mother and grandmother.

  9. Sheryl, I was moved by your ability to put such feeling into your poetry. I loved the ones about your mother and grandmother and was so touched by the one about your Dad.

    Barbara Richards

  10. Thanks so much for sharing this! I so enjoyed getting to know who you are — and who you think you are! The “wig- work” made me smile and Michael David broke my heart. Nice to know another Polish- Ukie! Nicely done Sheryl!

  11. Sheryl, I remember reading so many of these and enjoyed having another chance to savor them. They all hold together nicely as a group and make for a more powerful experience for readers. I loved Michael David too. Congrats!

  12. Walt, do you know who took that picture? i love both sunsets and silhouettes.

    Memory is a fragile thing. It is good these are poems and not a documentary. As I reread them, I think the house where we lived that Daddy took our things from was probably rented, not owned. Also, I think the dogs in the picture were not that close to each other. As I have said before, there was no cute guy at the dance when I was a teen. Hopefully the most important thing about these memories is they do convey the “essence of Sheryl,” which is what I was looking for any way. I am looking forward to reading everyone else’s collection, hoping to pick up the essence of the other poets in spite of any memory lapses.

    Well, I guess we can all say we have taken poetic license. In fact, as a joke a friend of mine gave me a “poetic license” when right before we graduated from college. I have used it here. 😉 Thank you all for my one day of fame.

  13. Coming in a little late Sheryl, I just wanted to add my congratulations to the others for this gem of a chapbook. You’ve chosen the best of your poems, polished them perfectly and organized them in a wonderful fashion … I think you likely have a publishable document here … very cool.

  14. Sheryl,
    I am very late getting to your chapbook…but it is wonderful.
    Your work doesn’t just touch my heart, it grabs it!
    A delightful, deep-felt recognition rose up in me as I read.
    It prompted a yearning to sit down at a round table with you and so many others at this site and talk, laugh, listen, cry, and love life over dark coffees and steaming teas.
    May not happen in this time…so maybe, then, in eternity.

    • I just looked in case someone was late with a comment. Sarah, the cover was created by Walt, and, yes, I like it, too. I am surprised at how many people enjoy the poem about Michael David. Thank you.

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