By Christopher Ingle
Inspired by William Wordsworth’s “We are seven” and “The Mad Mother”
For Thomas and Emmalee
Every Sunday, since years gone by
I have taken to stroll through the local wood.
A chance to be among the earth and sky
To contemplate life like a good boy should.
I found my way to my favorite spot
a willow that would never die.
Its branches invited deeper thought
To existential questions, like “why”?
When as I came upon my willow green
I saw a mother resting beneath its grace.
Along her side was a boy, so clean
And a smile of contentment upon both their face.
She had a lunch sack in her hand
Her child was holding one as well.
But a third was sitting on the tree so tanned…
It was a chicken lunch I could smell.
I asked the mother “how do you do?”
She simply nodded back.
Her smile increased as her child did chew
From the lunch within his sack.
I asked the mother if she was waiting
For her husband or a friend.
She said that she was celebrating
But an invitation to sit she did extend.
I sat up upon the grassy knoll
Besides the mother fair.
Her clothes were that of someone prole
Except for the flowers within her hair.
I asked her what the occasion might be
For her to come this way
To spend her time beneath this tree
On such a wonderful Spring day.
“It is the twins’ birthday” she said
With confidence and pride
As she stroked her child’s auburn hair
Her brushes were long and wide.
“So where is the child’s other half
On this day of their birth?”
She looked at me and did simply laugh
“She is resting within the earth”
“But she is here right now you see,
and Beside me everyday
she plays with us and joins for tea
she is alive in every way.”
“I am both a mom of two and one
And that I shall always be
For both my daughter and my son
Sit for lunch with me”
“Forgive me for I do not get
How you can be a mom of two
I do not attempt to beset
With a topic that’s so blue”
“I carried two, and only they
Who sit beside us now
Call me mom and then they play
Underneath this lovely bough.”
“But ma’am forgive me as I ask
If your other child’s time is done,”
I took a swig from my water flask
And said “you are a mom of one”
I expected her to shriek with anger
And destroy me in her wake
But she made no such fraughtful clangor
Nor did she even shake.
She simply looked upon my face
With contentment and with certain glee
With no hesitation and god’s good grace
She said “sir….yes indeed”
“I am both a mom of one
And a mom of two,
this is fact, and now we’re done
on this is need not review”
But anger I still did not see
Upon her lovely smile
Her child stood up with baited glee
For they had been sitting for quite a while.
The mother placed her lovely child
Inside a stroller made for two
The mother and son were so beguiled
As the little one kicked off a shoe.
As they began to walk away
I noticed they had left behind
The untouched bag lunch of the day
On the bag a name was signed.
“Mary” it said carefully written
Upon the bag in pencil black
Inside was some crispy chicken
But something else took me aback.
Two notes were found inside this meal
Folded in half and again in two
Beneath the tree I started to kneel
And read the notes, honest and true.
The first said “To whom may find this”
And I opened up the note
My tears I could not dismiss
And now the letter I did quote:
“Remember my sweet lovely Mary
Though she left us far too soon
Hug your child and be merry
For from time we are not immune.
Remember my daughter as I do now
A child of love and grace.
Beneath this tree and its flowing bough
I ask you think of her face”
Inside the other note you see
was a drawing of a girl
and tapped to it were pictures three,
more tears began to unfurl.
They were pictures of lovely Mary
Auburn hair and a flowy dress
She was happy, innocent and airy,
My own feelings I began to assess.
The meaning of life is not defined
By such things as current existence
But by the memories we hold, forget,…. and find
They never die with time and distance.
I was wrong when I said that mother she
Was only a mother of only one
For two she has, and two they be
This can be seen by anyone.
This poem is a personal story. Not my story. But an amalgamation of many women’s stories. Each of these women each lost a young child in their lives. As a father, when I first read “We are seven”, I was inspired. The story reminded me of a blog post I read years ago from one of these women. As she was going through the process of grieving, she asked herself how she was going to go from being a mom of two to a mom of one. She realized that she will always be a mom of two. I was then reminded of “The Mad Mother” who would not let go of the idea of being a mother with a child, even when the child is clearly dead in her arms. Though I did not bring it to that extent, I wanted that idea that a mother never forgets her child to be present. I believe that death does not define existence, but life does. Existence is much more than a physical, living body. It is the memory of that person, that can live on far beyond the passing of the body. We see this everyday in literature. The writers we read that have long past still exist with us because we get to read their thoughts, their experiences, their emotions through the page. It is the legacy and the true meaning of our lives here on this planet. It is to help change the world into a better place. We do that through our actions, and people remember us for those actions and are inspired to do the same. Legacy is what it is all about. When I interviewed all these mothers, the common theme they spoke about was remembering their child always. They wanted to remember, they want others to remember. They want to talk about it. Not all women do or are ready to talk about it. It is very difficult to lose a child, much less for me, a man, to tell a woman’s story. I can never love that child the way they do. But as a father of two girls, I hope I at least got a glimpse into that.
As for the correlations between the inspirations and the creation. I was clearly inspired by Wordsworths “We are seven” and “The Mad Mother”. I liked the lyrical nature of “7” but I liked the mother’s perspective from “Mad Mother”. I wanted to tell a combined story of Mom’s today who have lost a child, and how they view themselves. I also wanted a reflection by someone not the mother, as that is something we do not get in either poem. I also had this poem take place in the middle of nature, beneath a willow tree. Willow trees are often seen as comforting, secure trees. There branches reach down to the ground, almost as if they are covering or protecting those that sit beneath it, kind of like a mother and child. I didn’t want to focus on the innocence of the child in We are 7 as I didn’t originally interpret that poem that way. I saw the child as confident and wiser than the man asking her the questions. She knew her answers and saw the world better than we see it. I also did not want a mad angle from the “Mad mother”. I wanted to portray a woman who celebrated her child and acknowledged the existence, even though it wasn’t physically there.