Edith, pronounced Edd-ith [poem]

It’s more a character sketch than a poem, but here you go… it’s written and so shall it remain. It’s the first poem I’ve written in probably five years.


She learned proper English: the Queen’s speech,
Then the King’s, And again the Queen’s—
She knew them all, and quite well—
Before adopting an American accent,
Which tasted like gall, even after fifty years,
She’d have you to understand.

She crossed the ruddy Atlantic
(Pardon the harsh language),
Endured a voyage by train
From the colonies to the west coast,
To become Empress dowager,
A countryside landlady without tenants.

She lost four husbands and a young son,
Who worked her land
Under her cold steely stare—
Cleared the brush for emaciated cattle
Until one by one, they died
Just to be rid of her, I suppose.

She was proud of her China,
Which was from Chicago,
And her Belgian lace,
Bought from a Wards catalog.
Nothing from Oregon, where it rained,
Exactly like it never rained in England.

Lotions and perfumes lined her shelves, in
Cobalt ships and translucent red autocars and
Floral garnishes made to hold aromas.
She didn’t use her sprays and ointments,
But one must admit, Avon makes
Such lovely collectibles, don’t you think?

She moved from home to car to home—
Never outside, perish the thought—
Where the damp weather might do
Filthy things to her skin,
She, a veritable fig of English disdain,
Sewing bag and fixed sneer.

I met her late in her vigilant assault
Against the blackberry brambles; she
Enlisted youths from around the countryside
And we stalemated nature in her domain.
We always worked either too fast,
Or lazed about, or were too dirty, or too clean.

They moved her into a sanitarium,
Ninety and British as ever, yet
Without her crocheted things and curlicues,
Where she died in her overstuffed chair
(Orange as a salmon’s egg)
Scone crumbles the doily for her patrician belly.

I suppose the departed husbands smiled at the
Fresh mounds of hillside bracken, and
Grinned down from heaven–on her
Precious English lawn with its clumps and
Gopherpocks and crabgrass glaring through
Insolent yellow tansy, sentinels of erosion.


7 thoughts on “Edith, pronounced Edd-ith [poem]”

  1. I do like a well-executed character poem – a pocket life story with the right tiny details (“orange as a salmon’s egg” – lovely!) to give the bite of authenticity. A portrait of an intriguing (and probably quite maddening at times!) individual. I very much enjoyed reading this.


  2. I presume that this is an actual character you knew from your youth? Tremendous description of her: satirical, but not cruel, written with a smile, not a sneer. Nicely done.


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