I am thinking of a day 100 years ago.

I am picturing a five-year-old girl at a bedside,

maybe cleaned up for the event,

maybe told not to be loud,

watching, with her seven siblings

as her mother dies.

It’s the girl’s fifth birthday.

Maybe they meant to have cake.

Maybe her father forgot about presents.

Maybe the girl puts out her hand,

touches her mother’s cold fingers,

the rosary beads threaded through them.

Or maybe it didn’t happen that way.

Maybe the girl was sent to cousins,

and only heard when the solemn-faced uncle

came in, shook his head, took her by the shoulders.

Either way, there was no cake.

Either way, the girl was my grandmother.

She remembers nothing.

Her whole life, she recalls nothing about her mother.

Her whole life, a birthday on an anniversary.

Her whole childhood, Mass for the Dead

on every birthday. She remembers nothing.

She swears, each time I ask.


Catherine McGuire is a writer and artist with a deep concern for our planet's future. She has five decades of published poetry, five poetry chapbooks, a full-length poetry book, Elegy for the 21st Century, a SF novel, Lifeline and book of short stories, The Dream Hunt and Other Tales. She was interviewed about her poetry for a podcast of Revue Revolution. (

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