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Her Legacy
Barbara Bloom

for Aunt Cleone

After the divorce,
she sent me twenty dollars
tucked into the folds
of her crinkly blue stationary
written hard on both sides.
No use crying
over spilt milk, she said,
still, what a shame. There
never had been divorce
in the family.   By then,
I had a child
and could barely remember
her voice, but her certainties
were plain. No leaping
off cliffs for her. 
The whir of the sewing machine,
her shelves lined with canned goods
straight from the garden,
that was more her way. Her long letters,
full of other people’s news,
never mentioned
my father’s silence,
or her own lack of children.
From a quick how are you,
she’d go right to
the surgery of a neighbor
I would never meet,
or what a nice visit
she’d just enjoyed with Elsie.
Who was Elsie? I never exactly knew.
But, after all, weren’t we all part
of the great messy human family?
It swirled around her kitchen,
where she tied a fresh apron
around her waist,
and carried on.
She would hope for the best,
she concluded before signing her name.
Use the money
for something special.
Something just for you.

From On the Water Meridian (Hummingbird Press, 2007).
This poem first appeared on The Writers Almanac.
Used here with the author's permission.



Barbara Bloom grew up in California and on a remote coastal homestead in British Columbia, Canada.  She returned to California to attend the University of California, Santa Cruz and after earning a Master’s in English and Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, she taught composition and creative writing at Cabrillo College for nearly thirty years. Her poems have appeared in a variety of literary journals, and she has published two books, On the Water Meridian (Hummingbird Press, 2007) and Pulling Down the Heavens (Hummingbird Press, 2017.  Barbara now lives in Bellingham, Washington, with her musician husband, Fred Winterbottom.





Post New Comment:
Wonderful poem!
Posted 11/27/2010 05:09 PM
Joe Sottile:
I meant to say, "some smoked" cigarettes. And I almost added that my mother and uncle used to send me $5 every birthday, even when I was in college--enough money for pizza and beer with my best girl at Arnies in Plattsburgh, NY.
Posted 11/26/2010 11:19 AM
Joe Sottile:
Wonderful poem, Barbara Bloom! Wonderful! It certainly brings back memories. All my aunts and uncles treated family like royalty, especially around the holidays. They could eat, laugh, talk, yell, and some cigarettes--unfortunately. Many of them left this earth early, but they left behind rich memories.
Posted 11/26/2010 11:13 AM
written hard on both sides! just like my aunt Carolyn... Thanks for this poem. L T
Posted 11/26/2010 08:16 AM
What a lovely poem. My grandmother was my person who send me a five dollar bill for my birthday when I was in my 30s. She never wanted me to do without--and the cobblers she would bake us when she came to visit. Thanks for letting me go back and revisit her memory today!
Posted 11/26/2010 07:37 AM

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