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Bertha

by Leonard M Hawkes

I did not know of you—
Your older sister was cold
And did not speak to children.
And the circumstances of your death
Were hushed both then
And now.

But I found you (or you found me),
And though the pathetic details
Were sketchy at best,
I felt, I saw, I knew
That Truth that lingers
Beyond the grave.

Life was hard:
Your Swiss mother widowed,
Fatherless poverty,
Young domestic help.
But what “despondency”
Prescribed for you “carbolic acid”?

And when I visited that neighborhood,
20th Street, the bluff above the river,
I felt only Place
(I’d hoped to feel you lingering).
And where was Uncle Gwylim?
Lost in his own emigration?

Effortlessly, I found your
Markerless rectangle of grass
Well-way from the family,
Always alone?
And your cherub-faced bridegroom?
--Remarried and moved to Idaho.

12/26/2018

Author's Note: A great-great aunt's suicide

Posted on 12/26/2018
Copyright © 2022 Leonard M Hawkes

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Kristina Woodhill on 01/02/19 at 04:44 PM

A very personal piece. I am finding interesting, intriguing, revealing things about our family thru DNA testing also. Some things can no longer be hidden. I'm sorry you couldn't feel her in the Place but I hope it gives some closure.

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