top of page

Dorianne Laux is at your service. A micro-episode.

Some of America’s most celebrated poets are standing by to write poems for you on commission. Together, they form The International Bureau of Custom Poetry. More about the Bureau here.

In this special introductory episode, Bureau agent Dorianne Laux recounts her path from gas station attendant to Pulitzer Prize finalist, including a cameo of her mother at the sewing machine in Dorianne’s poem, “Singer.”


by Dorianne Laux

If I could go back to the living room window

of my childhood house, look again

through the pane, it would be a telescope lens

through which I might see the first woman

I ever met, my mother at her sewing machine,

rewinding the bobbin, little spool with holes

like an old movie reel our tiny lives

spun inside of.  I might see

her long piano fingers touch the balance wheel,

the throat plate, the presser bar, one bare foot

working the treadle, her heel revealing

only the first three letters in black latticed metal:

SIN.  My mother was what some called

a sinful woman: divorced, pregnant

without a husband, a baby boy given up

for adoption, remarried, another baby

born of another man, a one night stand,

while her husband was away at war.

She drank too much, thought too much,

laughed with her head thrown back, danced

with anyone.  Too pretty, too brainy,

too tall, her black hair a snare

that hooked men in.  But right now

she’s fully visible, stretching the fabric

for a kitchen curtain, a child’s dress,

swatches she salvaged from the deep

sale bins, using the selvedge for a hem

thereby cutting her handwork by half,

the black oiled mechanism banging out

dress after dress, tablecloths and runners,

nothing she couldn’t cobble together

from the waste of others.  She was

a very particular, peculiar mother

and by now you can see why

we loved her.  She was a lit fuse

in the rain.  She turned from her work

and set those same fingers

on the piano keys and pulled

music through the air.  Making something

from nothing was what she was good at:

love, children, pants and skirts

to dress them in, a table covered

with cherries on which the beautiful food

appeared, roses from her front yard garden

in an old cracked vase, her long arms

around our shoulders saying Sit still. Eat.

Try not to spill anything.


Do you have a loved one you’d like memorialized in a poem? Or a precious memory you’d like preserved for the ages? Dorianne Laux and the other professional poets in the Bureau are standing by to work with you. Sessions can be private or taped for potential use on TAPIT. Use the contact form to inquire. Or call our listener line at 808-300-0449.


bottom of page