On Writing

November Guest Blogger Mary Ann Mulhern Part III

We’ve had the pleasure of reading Mary Ann’s words for the last couple weeks, and this week’s words will touch your soul deeply and leave a mark.

Thank you, Mary Ann.

Here is it:

When I was about six years old, a grieving woman came to the cemetery house. She brought a box of beautiful clothes that she wanted me to wear. The woman tearfully told my mother, my father and I how her own beloved little girl had died of a fever the doctors could not treat. My parents knew all about this, but the sad story was new and confusing for me. The woman kept staring at me and asked if she could kiss me. Being a child I could not understand her sorrow, could not share any dimension of her inconsolable grief. And, I stepped away from her. Soon after, she left the house, got into her car, and drove away. I never saw her again. To this day, I regret my refusal of her kiss, a gesture that might have helped her begin to heal. Such are the straits of childhood- that uncertain curve of understanding we must all learn to navigate, and sometimes misread signs along the way.

Being Irish, my mother feared threads of death hidden in lovely seams of satin, linen and silk. She said fevers had a way of clinging to fabric, however lovely, however costly, waiting for the flesh and bone of yet another child. I never saw the box again, never wore any of the coats, dresses, sweaters and skirts. My mother may have buried them in the attic or basement and let them slowly turn to dust, like the dead girl who’d worn them last fall, last winter, just this past summer. That ghost child never held a golden leaf from autumn, never wondered at the harvest moon, stars of September, sudden dawn of October, the sun rising up from graves of darkness into day.

Don’t forget to follow and read next week’s final installation. I will be posting her writing in full as well as asking the question that could help you win  a FREE SIGNED copy of Mary Ann’s book, Sleeping with Satan.


9 thoughts on “November Guest Blogger Mary Ann Mulhern Part III

  1. Ah Mary Ann, childhood is the time for making mistakes as we negotiate that “uncertain curve of understanding.” No need for reproach or recriminations. Our mistakes, more than anything else, help form us into the people we are meant to be. The sorrow of that lost kiss played a role in making you the warm, sensitive and open-hearted individual you are today. A lesson learned and remembered. And see what grace has come of it!


    1. Thanks so much Penny-Anne- oh ,you’re right- these “lost moments” of childhood do help

      form us as adults. And, this woman’s grief remains with me, as does my mother’s fear of a fate

      awaiting me “in the silk and linen and wool”. Perhaps the fabric of our lives is woven with

      such events, that stand out in adult years. Today, I read the Globe and Mail account of Sally
      Fields, who plays the role of Mary Lincoln in the movie, “Lincoln”. Mary Lincoln lost three sons
      and mourned them all of her days. And then, her husband was shot in a theatre- so much tragedy
      in one life-time. Maybe Mary was a fore-runner of Rose Kennedy, and of Jackie Kennedy.
      As a fellow teacher used to say, “you never know”- and, you don’t.


  2. Dear Mary Ann:

    Even your prose is filled with poetry. Thank you again. This third part is very touching, breaks your heart.

    Just wish you’d write more. The poet in you, no doubt! : )



    1. Thanks so much Joanie!
      As I was writing this piece I actually did not think of it as poetry- but, I can see that indeed
      the images fit “poetry”. I’m so glad you like this piece- which I regard as the telling of
      a poignant and important event of childhood which has influenced my adult years.
      I’m certain that you also had such moments on which you reflect and find meaning and
      I greatly appreciate your comments!


    1. Thanks Karen,
      I’m so glad you’re reading an enjoying these posts. Actually, I’ve never attempted “prose poetry”
      but I do think some of these pieces do fit that genre- happily so!
      I’ve noticed that some of your writing also fits this- meaningful images, strong rhythms.
      Hope to see you at Salon!


  3. I have to agree with everyone else with regard to the poetic prose. This piece is so evocative and speaks to so many aspects of the human experience. I particularly like the juxtaposition of the two sets of responses–daughter’s and mother’s; younger self and older self. I want to buy a copy of your new book, signed. How/where might I get a hold of one? It was lovely seeing you the other day and talking, albeit briefly.


    1. Hi Carol,
      I really appreciate your response to my writing- especially this piece- a strong and strident
      memory from childhood, evocative of a veiled memory of my mother, the grieving woman
      I’ll give a signed copy of “Brides in Black” to Marty tomorrow night at Salon and I’m sure
      he’ll pass it on to you- thanks so much for asking!
      It was great to see you at Marty’s reading of “Ghost Road”- what an afternoon!
      all good things!


  4. Mary Ann,
    Reading this last installment reminded me of another girl who could not do what the later woman wished she would have done. In the end, the child does what the child knows to do and that child needs to be forgiven and blessed for being put in a situation way too adult for her years. The experience has shaped who you are today as the grieving mother was reminded that no other child can replace the one she lost, both lessons, one immediate one delayed.
    I agree with the other comments. Your writing is pure poetry. Thank you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s