Defiance in the dust

Episode 1. (in which a wife becomes a widow)

“They’re Roman Catholics, of course,

All those kids, have to be.

Don’t have any choice really, do they?

My God, what a tribe!

Still, cheaper by the dozen I always say.”

And the tongues clacked even louder

when your husband went to work one day

and his heart sent him home in a coffin.


You, the new tribal elder,

with no time to rend your clothes or cut your skin

or wail into the night


your duty to the children

and your love for the One

(tested in late lonely hours of single terror)

ensuring tomorrow and then tomorrow,

until automatic again.


Episode 2. (in which a widow becomes a wife again)

The back door is banging less these days

and the youngest stragglers are drifting from the hearth

as a familiar face comes calling.

To your children you deny blushes

and your diminishing waistline

but, eventually,

you fall in love with his passionate patience

and his belief in you.


Episode 3 (in which asbestos taketh away what God has joined together)

A cough got its skates on

and pale Christmas courage

gave us memories of him to live with.

We all came to be with him and you.

You, stronger at your core than us all,

solace to kin and doctors alike,

determined that you were married to a man and not a patient,

laughed as you prayed and liberated Peace

from the clutches of pompous Death.


You, the tribal elder,

again no time to rend your clothes or cut your skin

or wail into the night,

survived for him and your duty to the offspring

and your love for the One.

But this time, the late lonely hours did not fill you with terror

but questions

about where you would find automatic tomorrows this time.

And you even dared “Why?”, in your private silence.


But in a hot, dusty churchyard

you walked bareheaded

and sang loud your hope of a merciful Heaven,

striding defiantly every inch of the way

as though everything had happened

but nothing would change.

4 thoughts on “Defiance in the dust

    • Interesting you see it as dark, Roberta. I had hoped for it to be seen as inspirational i.e. strength in the face of seemingly overwhelming diversity etc. To provide some context for the real people this poem is based on, the man was a world-renowned ice rink maker who’d never married and the woman was a widowed mother of 9. They were both unaffected working class people who found love and toured the world together in their autumn years.


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