For Thomas and Emmalee

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.

Review:

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.

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4 thoughts on “For Thomas and Emmalee

  1. Pingback: Surveying the Literature of Power | English Literature of the Long Eighteenth Century (1660-1837) Gone Global

  2. This post moved me and it made me think of my grandmother who has lost her husband and son to suicide and one son (my father) to cancer. The most original thing here was your honesty in what inspired you to write this post. Its hard to imagine what its like to lose a son or daughter. Maybe you could rewrite a poem like this that applies to someone that is now longer in your life as a memoir.

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  3. I absolutely love this poem. I love how all of it rhymes and fits within the amazing frameworks of the works that this seeks to emulate. I think the only way this could have been improved was a little bit of syntactical correction and also a few loose syllables to tie up.

    -Alejandro Joseph Serrano

    Like

  4. I loved the author’s proficient use of rhyme scheme throughout the poem, and his homage to “We are Seven” and the “Mad Mother.” The poem’s rhyme scheme could be improved by correcting minor syntactical errors.
    – Hongxi Su

    Like

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