The Ballad of the Heroic Mother

a true story

A toddler into water fell
__And sank as quick as rock.
At nine feet deep, she couldn’t yell
__Or jump or thrash in shock.

Her mother heard the splash portend
__Her daughter’s water grave;
She dove into the pool’s deep end,
__Her little girl to save.

She grabbed her daughter, held her tight,
__And with a presto prayer
Sprang toward the shimmering sun of white
__To give her girl some air.

She held her up while sinking down
__And knew to save her daughter
That she herself might well soon drown
__So inched toward shallow water.

Seconds before her lungs gave out,
__Her face felt heat and air.
Her feet on ground, she breathed a shout:
__“Success!”  An answered prayer!

The whole crowd cheered the mom en masse;
__She gained a hero’s glory.
She told the public-speaking class—
__I still think of the story.



A Parent’s Prayer

How heavy the crosses that You have been giving—
Dear God, ever gladly I’ll bear them
And heavier still for as long as I’m living,
But as for my children, Lord, spare them.

I know that their lives on the earth are a trial,
But heartbreaks and griefs that impair them,
I’ll carry that burden myself with a smile,
And as for my children, Lord, spare them.

Don’t let them remake the mistakes of my youth,
And don’t let the devil ensnare them,
But help me to teach them to revel in Truth—
I beg You: my children, Lord, spare them.



The Banned Barbie

a true story

For a little girl’s birthday, I shopped at the mall
With my mother to pick the most suitable doll.
We went to the Barbies and searching we started;
Pink boxes stood high like the Red Sea when parted.

A doctor, a teacher, an athlete, a nurse,
A corporate executive, options diverse,
The bewildering array still was missing one other:
I noticed that Barbie was never a mother.

No baby, no stroller, no pregnancy belly,
No children around but a sister named Kelly.
The boxes said, “You can be anything,” but
The noblest career as an option was cut!

Yet I’d love for a little girl somewhere to learn
That her motherly wishes aren’t cause for concern
Or a childhood phase she’ll be leaving behind,
But a dream to encourage, and how she’s designed.



The Renegade Poet

What people picture hearing the word “poet”
Bears no resemblance in the least to me;
When seen around a crowd, there’s none who’d know it—
I don’t wear black berets or a goatee.

My field is math, I’ve gained a grad degree;
I’ve programmed both in Python and Excel.
I protest leftist lies and tyranny
And strive to snatch some souls from roads to Hell.

Yet one thing we’ve in common, I will tell:
As left-wing writers did in righter times,
I blatantly write verses to rebel.

I’m lauding our “outmoded” paradigms:
Large families, small communities, the Church—
The simple country life for which I search.


Python: A computer programming language
Excel: A spreadsheet application, with its own programming language



Joshua C. Frank works in the field of statistics and lives near Austin, Texas. His poetry has also been published in Snakeskin, Atop the Cliffs, and the Asahi Haikuist Network, and his short fiction has been published in Nanoism.

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The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or commentary.

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29 Responses

  1. David Whippman

    Every parent will relate to “A Parent’s Prayer.” As for “The Renegade Poet”… well written, though I guess now I’ll have to shave, and discard my headgear!

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Yes, “A Parent’s Prayer” was based on things my mother told me about raising me. As for shaving and discarding your headgear, Wordsworth was usually depicted with mutton chops, the exact opposite of a goatee, and hatless, so you’ll be in good company!

  2. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Josh, I love every one of these poems. They highlight your skill and versatility as a poet… I admire the way you embrace different forms with seeming ease.

    ‘The Ballad of the Heroic Mother’ is a wonderful piece that serves to highlight the raw courage and selfless love motherhood brings with it… perfect for celebrating all those amazing mothers out there on this special day.

    The message of ‘The Banned Barbie’ says everything about a society in which motherhood is frowned upon and demeaned. It’s wonderful to see you giving weight to the role – the closing stanza is particularly powerful.

    ‘The Renegade Poet’ (great title) makes me smile and cringe at the same time… who would have thought that the poet’s aspirations mentioned in your closing stanza would be considered rebellious. Josh – long may your rebellious streak flourish!

    My favorite of these is ‘A Parent’s Prayer’ – it’s simply beautiful!

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you, Susan! Skill and versatility are two big things I aim for, so I’m glad to hear I’m doing well with those.

      I make it a rule to write any story that has stuck with me for years. That public-speaking class I took was 20 years ago, back in my first semester of college; I was really impressed with that speaker, and I knew it was exactly what my mother would have done if it had been me falling in the pool. The shopping trip through the Barbie aisle was a few years before that; I didn’t understand the full extent of the anti-mother agenda at the time (I was still in my teens), so I just laughed and said, “Bunch of prudes!”

      I’ve always believed that being a mother is the best thing a woman can do, and that a man’s true career is not his job, but fatherhood. (Even priests function as spiritual fathers to many, or at least are supposed to.) Also that the two roles are not in competition as many think, but are both necessary and complementary. It is not without reason that the saying “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world” exists. This idea alone, let alone the rest, makes me hated by the liberal poetry establishment, hence “The Renegade Poet.” What is called “far right” today was once rightly called sane.

  3. Roy Eugene Peterson

    Josh, these are beautifully written as they are touching.

    “The Ballad of the Heroic Mother” came across to me with your final line as if you were in an audience attending a public speaking event and was deeply affected by the speaker. Such a fitting tribute for Mother’s Day.

    “The Banned Barbie” provides an interesting perspective on Barbie Dolls that frankly never occurred to me.

    “The Renegade Poet” is something to which I also aspire. Our voice for that is good, truthful, factual, and meaningful is greatly needed. I admire your stand and enthusiasm for the challenges our world faces now and those yet to come.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you, Roy. I’m glad you enjoyed them.

      I was in the classroom, listening to the story with everyone else in the class. 20 years later, thousands (1,600+ subscribers and presumably many more) are reading about it.

      I never would have thought about that with Barbie dolls either, since being a boy without any sisters, I never played with them.

      As for taking my stand, Susan has been my biggest inspiration for that…

  4. Mark Stellinga

    Josh, what a wonderful group of messages to consume first thing on Mother’s Day. -:) You heart-fully, and skillfully, cover some truly meaningful issues here, great jobs.

      • Patricia Allred

        Hello Josh,

        You should be proud that you have so many poems published here, and Evan is supportive of you. I will keep my remarks short, because I always have trouble with typos here and spelling. I will email you my comments..
        Congratulations, poet?

      • Joshua C. Frank

        Thank you, Patricia. I look forward to reading your comments.

  5. Mark Stellinga

    Josh, what a wonderful group of messages to enjoy first thing on Mother’s Day. -:) You heart-fully, and skillfully, cover some truly meaningful issues here, great jobs.

  6. Phil S. Rogers

    Very well done. The poems make the reader realize there is so much more to Mother’s Day than a two dollar card. Let us remember and be thankful.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you, Phil. Well said. It was my mother’s example that taught me the importance of mothers.

  7. Joseph S. Salemi

    These are four really good poems, and how appropriate to see them on Mother’s Day.

    The use of ballad meter for the poem on the heroic mother was the right choice, because a short and exciting narrative works well in that sturdy meter. And the rhymes of line 2 of each stanza in “A Parent’s Prayer” are expertly done.

    “The Banned Barbie” made me angry, because it shows how the deep poison of anti-motherhood and anti-natalism is being deliberately bankrolled by corporate America (our worst damned enemy — and you reflexive patriots out there, please don’t wave any flags at me in defense of it). As H.L. Mencken said. having a child is the defining experience of womanhood, just as important and dangerous as standing in battle is for the male sex.

    I’m glad you are a “renegade poet,” Joshua. The phrase reminded me of what the great Catholic scholar Frederick D. Wilhelmsen said many years ago, when reviewing a stupid liberal book titled “The Secular City.” He wrote “Every man must decide whether he will be a loyal citizen of The Secular City, or live within its walls as a secret traitor.”

    I’m glad you’ve made the right choice.

    • Monika Cooper

      That is a great insight about womanhood from Mencken. “The Banned Barbie” is a thought-provoking piece. Barbie really is a figure of the single life and its glamor, with a perpetual artificial beauty and youth, designed to move in a shallow world. So there’s something absurd about her. Whereas the real female body indicates a woman’s maternal destiny.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        It’s from his wonderful book “In Defense of Women,” from the early 20th century. An absolute classic about male-female relations.

      • Joshua C. Frank

        Thank you, Monika. I’m glad you found it thought-provoking.

        I would also argue that while Mencken was right, becoming a father is also supposed to be a man’s defining experience, to the degree that if it isn’t, then there’s something seriously wrong with him. After all, what is the purpose of a man standing in battle if not to defend his wife and children, or those of other men if he has none? Hence forgoing marriage and children is supposed to be a sacrifice on the part of a man called to the priesthood.

        “Whereas the real female body indicates a woman’s maternal destiny.” Because I have a mother, this has always been obvious to me; this is as fundamental as being able to define a woman (which many also can’t seem to do).

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you, Joe! I’m glad I could write something that could elicit such a reaction! Though I would say it’s not just corporate America, but literally every institution of modern Western culture that is deliberately pushing the poison of anti-motherhood—the poison has completely and thoroughly metastasized. And thanks to modern media, birth rates are dropping all over the world. I’m glad Africa is resisting (birth rates remain high there); they know what’s important, at least for the time being.

      That every organ of our culture is so thoroughly diseased is precisely why I have to be a renegade poet and live in the Secular City’s walls as a secret traitor. Peter Kreeft, paraphrasing Mother Teresa, said, “When a mother can kill her baby, what is left of civilization to save?”

  8. Monika Cooper

    The last two lines of “Renegade Poet” are beautiful. They articulate, not some utopia incompatible with human nature, but a true and realistic norm of human life that once was and now is being built again, in and around the ruins. Eventually “large families, small communities, the Church,” will, I pray, take back our once great cities as well.

    You might like to know that the American flag with “gaps between the stripes” that I used to drive past has been replaced this weekend with a bright and bold new one. It gave me such a happy thrill to see it.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you, Monika. Yes, that way of life will take back the culture if not destroyed, since modern culture’s anti-natalist nature is unsustainable based on low fertility alone. Darwin would be the first to say that such conditions select for people believing in large families. If any remnant of Western culture still exists in 2100, it will almost certainly be the rural, Christian culture I describe. Sadly, it’s a toss-up whether the last remnants of a sane culture will be bulldozed by the modern insanity. But what I do know is that even if not, modern culture will not be converted, except for a small trickle of people such as myself who see the light and escape the darkness.

      I’m happy to hear that flag has been replaced. Hopefully it has been given a respectful disposal beforehand.

  9. Norma Pain

    Four very enjoyable poems. My very favorite is “A Parent’s Prayer”. Thank you Joshua.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      You’re welcome, Norma. Thank you for commenting. That’s my favorite of these as well.

  10. Margaret Coats

    More cheers from me for that heroic mother, Josh, and for your ballad spreading her story. Your “Parent’s Prayer” is a little reminder that we can never repay our parents for all they do for us, from the time we begin existence as a single cell with a soul. We can only pay them back by willingness to sacrifice for our own children, as your parent-speaker wills to do. He recognizes that sacrifice should become part of their lives, and his prayer is, again, something that parents must do to help children through temptations. As we look around us, we seem to see many whose parents’ prayers may be too rare!

    Concerning the sacrifice of parenthood itself, you speak of how men called to the priesthood make that sacrifice in order to be fathers to all. I found out from French Benedictines whom I visit that traditional nuns do the same. These nuns are cloistered and enclosed, so they only see persons who make the effort to visit them. In general, when speaking to outsiders, or in their newsletter, they refer to one another as “Sister.” Only the abbess is called “Mother.” But among themselves, all the time, every sister addresses every other sister as “Mother,” to acknowledge that their hidden lives of prayer and work are meant to provide plentiful motherhood for the Church and the world. God designs women to be mothers (and men to be fathers) not only physically but spiritually!

    I’m happy to point out the renegade touch of the Spenserian sonnet form in your “Renegade Poet.” It is the most difficult and the most complex of the many regular and traditional sonnet rhyme schemes, and therefore suits the subject well.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you, Margaret. It’s true, about parents’ prayers. As you know, St. Augustine led a dissolute life, and his mother, St. Monica prayed twenty years for him to convert and marry. This prayer was answered in spades—he became a Doctor of the Church and lived a celibate life as a priest and then bishop. The same St. Augustine prayed to God, “Here cut, here burn, here spare me not, but spare me in eternity!” I thought of how my mother’s version would change the end to pray to spare me instead, and this ended up being the inspiration for the poem.

      Really, the only way we can repay any debt of gratitude properly is to pay it forward. That’s one reason I write what I do. God has given me the grace to be open to the truth at any cost, and so I want to pass on what I’ve learned in this way.

      That’s interesting to hear, about Benedictine nuns. That sounds like material for a poem in itself.

      I’m happy that you noticed the form of the Spenserian sonnet. It seemed perfect for what I was writing. (For readers who don’t know, the Spenserian sonnet is an interlocking form of the Shakespearean sonnet: instead of ababcdcdefefgg, it’s ababbcbccdcdee.)

    • Monika Cooper

      Margaret, thank you for sharing the story about the French Benedictine nuns and their spiritual motherhood.

      And, Joshua, I appreciate your insight above, that “becoming a father. . . is supposed to be a man’s defining experience.” Thank you for reminding us why real men go to war. It’s what’s being done to children today that is making warriors of us all.

      I will continue to think about your wonderful comments.

      • Joshua C. Frank

        Thank you, Monika. That’s nice to hear.

        The idea that men go to war for their children is shown in the Iliad, in which Ulysses tries to escape war by pretending to be insane, only to be tested by having his son put in danger. He saves his son, but the cost is having to go to war. The Trojan War lasted 10 years (1194 BC – 1184 BC), and The Odyssey shows Ulysses spending another ten years trying to get home. All this to save his son’s life.

  11. Leland James

    Great sense of rhythm. And the ballad for the more everyday hero: modern theme, classic approach. Good poem. Kept me reading, which is the final complement a reader pays.


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