“The Lanyard”- A mother’s response

Below is a poem that was posted on a message board I frequently read. The poster mentioned that she had heard it on National Public Radio as a mother’s day tribute.

“The Lanyard” by Jackie Lyden

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the pale blue walls of this room,
bouncing from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past —
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sickroom,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift–not the archaic truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Lanyard Picture

“A Mother’s Response” by M. Kate
When I finished reading the poem, I found myself thinking about the mom’s response to receiving the lanyard. I think it would go something like this:

My son came home from camp today and presented me with a lanyard.

He used the arms and hands, fingers and eyes and brain and heart that I gave him to make me a lanyard.

I hold the lanyard in my hands and see the colors that he chose: blue for my eyes, brown for my hair and purple because it’s my favorite color of all.

I feel the plastic in my hands and remember how I held him in my arms.

Tears come to my eyes as I tie the lanyard to my keys

I gave him life and he gave me a lanyard

We are definitely even.



Filed under Random Thoughts

2 responses to ““The Lanyard”- A mother’s response

  1. New Mommy


  2. KDK

    Hi! “The Lanyard” was written by the great poet Billy Collins.

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