I want to say, Dear Mother, do not fret
I am gone, and all is set,
you think, I know, our Father’s will and rule–
but, oh I wish I lived to see my babies go to school!
And all the sisters out at play—
instead of here. The way
(my body disappeared
I seem to float without it.)
I remember now, how yellow turned my skin and eyes,
and mournful were my sighs and cries
from aching head–
and then overspread
the blackest bile from within my bowels
over all the sheets and towels. . .
and yet you tended me
till I ceased to be
I no longer feel the pain.
But Mother, I wish I remained.
For the NaPoWriMo prompt today to “write your own poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead” and for the dVerse prompt where Grace asks us to write about the body. I wasn’t going to do either prompt, but then this came to me. It’s based on letters I read that were written during the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793. Many fled the city, but over 5,000 people died. The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes, so the epidemic subsided once the weather cooled. I remember sitting in the Quaker Archives at Haverford College reading one letter and nearly bursting into tears.
This is so touching Merril. I admire how you gave it just the right emotional tone and voice. I can’t imagine how terrible it must have been for the mother and family left behind.
Thank you so much, Grace. You’re right that it must have been so terrible for those families–and for the city. I imagine everyone knew someone who had died.
A tragedy no parent should have to face, the loss of a child. Yellow fever sounds like a much more hideous way to go than the vent-machine death of covid.
Thank you so much, Lisa. You are so right about the loss of a child. I can’t imagine.
Yellow fever does sound so awful.
You’re very welcome.
Merril, this made me cry. It brought how much I still miss my Aaron into clear focus. Powerful writing.
Oh, Ron! I’m so sorry to have made you cry for your Aaron. Thank you for the kind words though. ❤️
This is poignant and o very well written, Merril! Submit it! ❤️
Thank you so much, Charlotte! ❤️.
I’ll have to figure out where. . .
The voice is perfect here, Merril; tells the tale as it was and ends with that plaintive couplet. Very impressive.
Thank you so much, Ron.
This is incredibly moving, Merril! You have depicted the ache, the tragedy in a way that is both sensitive and real. I confess I became a bit teary-eyed near the end. 💝
Awww–thank you so much, Sanaa! ❤️
You definitely met the challenge … and good for me for picking up death before reading the challenge. 🙂
Thank you very much, Frank!😀
I imagine the title hinted at what was to come.
You have captured the 18th century voice so perfectly in your poem, at first I thought it was from that time period. When I finished it, I was reminded that several of my ancestors from Hampton, NH died in various yellow fever outbreaks. Such a haunting evocation of illness and death suffered by so, so many before the era of modern medicine.
What a wonderful compliment, Liz. Thank you!
That is so sad about your ancestors, but it’s cool that you have the records.
Yes, this particular family is very well documented.
That’s so cool.
One particular mid-19th century family member was instrumental in the documentation–although he did get some things wrong.
Such a heartfelt compassionate understanding
Thank you very much, Derrick.
This is such a moving poem, Merril. I have tears.
Thank you so much, Kim. I’m pleased you were so moved.
You had me close to tears with this poem so I think you must have captured the essence of the letter well.
Thank you very much, Ingrid. That’s very kind.
Such an emotional piece, Merril. Well done!
Thank you so much, Jill!
Too many have suffered this fate, but your words capture all the tangled emotion. (K)
Thank you so much, Kerfe.
This made me teary – beautifully written.
Thank you so much!
Especially now ~~~ your words resonate, reverberate.
Thank you, Helen.
Another reader who got teary-eyed with this poem 😉 Beautifully done, Merril, and, as Liz noted, you capture that 18th-century manner of speaking so well. And still, it’s a poem that will resonate regardless of the century.
Thank you so much, Marie. I’m pleased that you both think I got that 18th-century tone–and the sadness, too.
So tender and touching Merril. For some reason, reminds me of the novel- The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.
Thank you so much, Linda.
I can see how it would remind you of that–a ghost looking down. The I think The Lovely Bones is even sadder because of the situation.
Yes, much more so.
Soul-stirring! You’re to be commended.
Thank you so much, Beverly! That is most kind.
This is wonderfully done, Merril. It went right to the heart because any mother would do that for her child, whether she herself is a mother or not.
Thank you so much, Dale.
My girls were little when I had the fellowship in the Quaker Archives, and I just wanted to go home and hug them.
I bet. I never understood how someone else’s story could do that until I had kids.
I guess anything is more affecting if you have a connection.
Powerful poem, Merrill. Nightmare of a disease, and losing a child.
Thank you so much! It is a nightmare situation.