A smile to Remember
|a smile to remember|
|we had goldfish and they circled around and around|
in the bowl on the table near the heavy drapes
covering the picture window and
my mother, always smiling, wanting us all
to be happy, told me, "be happy Henry!"
and she was right: it's better to be happy if you
but my father continued to beat her and me several times a week while
raging inside his 6-foot-two frame because he couldn't
understand what was attacking him from within.
my mother, poor fish,
wanting to be happy, beaten two or three times a
week, telling me to be happy: "Henry, smile!
why don't you ever smile?"
and then she would smile, to show me how, and it was the
saddest smile I ever saw
one day the goldfish died, all five of them,
they floated on the water, on their sides, their
eyes still open,
and when my father got home he threw them to the cat
there on the kitchen floor and we watched as my mother
This poem stirred up alot of emotions for me. The son and mother in the poem are subjected to regular beatings by their abusive father. I can picture the smile of the mother, as the son describes it as the saddest smile he ever saw. I picture a mouth upturned in the shape of a smile, but eyes which refuse to smile, filled with fear and sadness. I think this is what Henry saw in his mother. The poem ends with the father savagely tossing the family's dead goldfish on the kitchen floor to be eaten by the housecat. In one line, the poet writes, "my mother, poor fish," comparing his mother to his soon to be dead goldfish. The mother and the goldfish are similar in their trapped existence. The fish are limited to their tank, and the mother is limited to family and husband. This poem is very moving and troubling at the same time. I can relate to the speaker because the he just wants to be happy and tries to be happy, but he just can't. He doesn't smile, and hesitates when his mother shows him how to smile because her smile expresses sadness.