Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2082248-Emily
by fyn
Rated: E · Poetry · Family · #2082248
She was, is and, hopefully, always will be close. Prompt/Sample for April 24
Prompt for: April 24, 2016 (fyn)
Subject or Theme: Ghosts...real or as in a memory of someone lost...a wisp, a feeling...
Word(s) to Include: essence, wisp, hint, waft (or any derivatives of these words)
Forbidden Word(s): ghost, love, dead, death, dying, grave, cemetery, haunted, house (or any derivatives, compound or hyphenations of these words)
Additional Parameters: Minimum of 36 lines, non-rhyming
Remember, do not use forbidden words ANYWHERE, including title or the brief description.

Emily McFee, of County Clare and her husband, Peter
won the lottery, the much sought prize being berths, in steerage.
Starving for life, potatoes rotting in their fields, they purchased
two lottery tickets with her mother's silver candlesticks.
Peter's words still resonate in family lore:
Perhaps they will shed a light on our future.

Tickets picked every six weeks or so,
five days walking there and back
to check the lists, find nothing, returning home
to pray the rains would come, or that the sun would shine,
that they could survive until their names were picked.
Starvation was always on the menu.

Letting go of odd mementoes,
bits of their past to secure a future,
they traded what little they had
to acquire the requisite steamer trunk:
humped, brass bound, three foot, by two by two.
Roughly half the size of a coffin, three times as dear.

Spring passed, crops losing to rocky soil.
Summer warmed, wilted dreams and hopes
but they didn't give up; lived on devotion and prayers.
The only thing that bore fruit was Emily
who was now with child. No pregnant women allowed
on board the ship. They had no ticket for a child.

When she was seven months pregnant,
their names were drawn to depart in three weeks time.
Mortal quandary caught between
the rocks in their fields and starving.
She carried small, should they take the chance?
Steerage was no place for a pregnant woman but they'd run out of buts.

What one could wear or fit inside their trunk
was all they were allowed to bring. She packed
their Bible, her journal, bits and pieces of their lives
too poor to sell or trade, worth more in essence.
Wearing all the clothes they could fit on their bodies-
the layers hid any hint of their secret.

Packed below decks, two to a berth. Fed from
communal pot of watery stew that carried wisps of meat,
far more, the stench from chamber pots emptied once daily,
of unwashed bodies, of woolen clothes that clung to noxious odors
as if that extra layer might provide scant warmth.
A week out of Boston, Emily gave birth.

Cramped quarters gave birth to unlikely friendships,
a comradery that fostered the desire for all to hide
the child, to feel that something good could arise
from sheer misery and abject despair: for the trip across
unsettled sea had long leeched hopes that finally won
lottery tickets had imbued. New life brought new hope.

A quiet birth for sounds carried, Sunday meeting masking
true prayers. Tiny scrap of female child too weak to cry,
too small to survive, fed by mothers still nursing their toddlers.
Named Bridgette Mairen for strength and 'of the sea;'
the infant thrived. Emily, weak and fevered, whispered
enduring words and faded. They buried her at sea, never knowing.

Days later, shouts of land, of destination reached. Wrapped in
her mother's clothes, hidden in the trunk, fed into sleep,
Bridgette arrived in America and was jostled through customs unaware.
Wet nurse hired for pennies lived long enough to feed the child
before perishing midst wagon trek west. Two year old girl child, deemed
worthless by many, saved his life, brought him joy in new beginnings.

Captured, enslaved by Iroquois, he earned his freedom with determination
and the favor of the chief's daughter. A medicine woman, she claimed
spiritual kinship with the child, married her father. Through it all
the trunk, Emily's journals survived. As did my great-grandmother.
Watched over, always, by Emily, her sprit staying with the chest that
held her child. Staying still. She wafts through the bloodlines.

Emily guards us. I've never seen her, but seen her movement, her presence
when unwired lights lit, when cradles rocked, the especial things lost
suddenly reappeared. We have all heard her soft lullabies to fretful children
in the night. A slight stirring of warm air or barest touch when grief overwhelms.
Scent of fresh cut hay or lilacs when winter locks us all in cold and ice.
Emily is the hug, the tug of heartstrings that keeps us all connected.

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