Saturday, May 10, 2014



Hair straight, cross-eyed,
from the age of four
her mother’s right-hand helper.
Louise, eldest daughter.
The little ones named her Sis.
Her dad painted houses, drank beer,
died young after siring twelve children.
Later, that’s all she’d tell of him.

The children sucked meat
from horseshoe crab legs or starved.
When her sister ate rat poison
and died, Sis, the babysitter at six,
took the blame.  “I’ll be a nurse,
someday,” she vowed.  “Save lives.”

Years later, in white cap
 and wind-blown cape,
she posed on a rooftop
the Johns Hopkins skyline behind her.
She married a doctor,
raised two children,
organized her husband’s life.
He offered security,
a steadfast heart. Nursing
fell by the wayside.

Genealogy caught her intelligence.
boxes of notes and letters,
birth dates, death dates,
traced to the Mayflower.
The Magna Carta.
No one in the family cared.

How lonely she felt,
adrift on the farm, up the dirt road.
No friends, siblings miles away.
Husband retired,
unwilling to learn to cook
scrub the floor, sort the laundry.

On her ninetieth birthday
she wore bracelets and rings,
a red-heart necklace. 
Her children served lobster,
king crab legs and cheesecake.
A year later, she died.

In the black-metal trunk
her daughter found
a nurses cap and cape
preserved in moth balls.

A pin: Louise Lyon, R.N.

by Susan Pope 2013


Mystic Meandering said...

Wow Suki, so poignant... A life in a nutshell, or trunk, basically... Some of it I can relate to, a dysfunctional family, needing to take care of siblings at age 11... I can't imagine doing that at age 6! Then wanting to become a nurse to "save/rescue" people from their emotional pain... And taking an interest in genealogy, while family remained disinterested... Yes, I relate to all of that... Such trauma that forms some of us, and yet somehow we emerge from that, if we are not suffocated...

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

Beautifully expressed ... this life of your mothers. Joys and disappointments all rolled into a very long life. A loving tribute to her here on the eve of Mother's Day.
Over the years I've come to a different understanding of my mother ... an unexpected acceptance.

sukipoet said...

Mystic, thank you so much. Yes, Mom had a very hard early life and I think felt left out of the mainstream ever after even though things changed for her when she married my dad.

Blue Sky, I totally changed my thoughts and understanding of my mom toward the end of her life and since her death. I feel so close to her now. Feel I misunderstood her a lot previously.

Kelly said...

Oh, tomorrow is mother's day, isn't it? This is beautiful, Suki.

Mim said...

what a beautiful post, very poignant, and almost hard to read but lovely. I'll always remember that red heart necklace

sukipoet said...

Thank you Kelly.

sukipoet said...

Mim, thanks for your comments.

Robin said...

This is so beautiful...(although I confess to NOT seeing cross-eyes)...

Like Mim, I well remember that red heart necklace.

I love how all the women in you family truly resemble each other...just gorgeous!


♥ Robin ♥

sukipoet said...

Robin, I only noticed my mom's eye thing when I lived with her when she was 90. A sort of wandering eye. Maybe I made it up?

Lynne with an e said...

A hard start in life, a struggle through much of it. But still having enough joy to don a red-hearted necklace (perhaps in memory and subconscious gratitude for the steadfast heart her husband once provided?;and rings on her fingers to add some sparkle to her life, no matter how late. You've succeeded in capturing your mother's life in a poem like small heart-shaped locket that is a precious heirloom.

Annie said...

Suki, Lovely, your mom is beautiful. xoxo

Lynn Cohen said...

Oh Suki, I sit here with tears in my eyes. You are such a wonderful storyteller with your poetry. I feel as though I am there for all those life events in all those lives. What a beautiful tribute to your dear mother, and how well I remember that red heart.
Hugs, dear Suki, gentle, gentle hugs.

kj said...

Suki, I don't know how I overlooked this tribute. It's left me sad. May we live our lives on our own terms. Your mother reminds me oft mother. She always has--their kind eyes

Love to you, suki

wanda miller said...

BEAUTY at it's deepest!