In Memoriam: Their Names | Merril D. Smith

My sisters dead now
I write their names on the church wall–
so many dead,
why, Lord, am I still here?

Cateryn, fair of face,
Amee, sweet and loving,
Jane who sang like a lark
and made me laugh—

no more

will I hear the sound
of their voices,
though my mind teases—
wasn’t that Jane’s titter I heard
at the priest’s stuttering cautions

of heaven and hell–
what does he know of it?

This my hell, my sisters gone,
the three I most adored
in this world–
where they no longer dwell.

So here, my small tribute
that in some future time
one may see their names
and wonder about this trinity

their names left here
in artless manner
but engraved indelibly
on my heart–

Cateryn, Amee, Jane
Anno 1515


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This poem was inspired by the plague graffiti found on the church walls in a Cambridgeshire church.

 


Merril D. Smith is an independent scholar with a Ph.D. in American History and numerous books on history and gender issues. She is currently working on a book on sexual harassment and a collection of poetry. Her poetry and stories have appeared recently in Rhythm & Bones, Vita Brevis, Streetlight Press, Ghost City, Twist in Time, and Mojave Heart Review.

Her blog is at merrildsmith.com and she can be found on Twitter @merril_mds and Instagram @mdsmithnj

The Pogrom | Merril D. Smith

She hid in a haystack—
or—

she climbed into a barrel—
or–

she crawled
into a narrow space

in the now long-vanished barn,
where she became invisible.

Time has fogged the details
in haze, of blaze and cries–

hushed the terror—the whys–
the child, my grandmother,

must have felt
as she heard the boots,

the screams,
the fire’s thunder-roar,

soaring reverberations
almost forgotten

trauma buried deep,
but there, waiting to be sparked,

awakened from smoldering ashes
to flame into a mass in her brain–

and do I carry
within me the burnt ruins

of that long-ago pogrom–
an incipient conflagration–

who knows

but the wisdom of generations
yet flows through my blood.


Merril D. Smith is an independent scholar with a Ph.D. in American History and numerous books on history and gender issues. She is currently working on a book on sexual harassment and a collection of poetry. Her poetry and stories have appeared recently in Rhythm & Bones, Vita Brevis, Streetlight Press, Ghost City, Twist in Time, and Mojave Heart Review.

Her blog is at merrildsmith.com and she can be found on Twitter @merril_mds and Instagram @mdsmithnj