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grandma’s work

June 11, 2014

She was a peasant
How could she be more
When her parents bribed the truant officer
A goat to keep a daughter home
Just a girl, needed only to work

Who had time to learn words
though she knew the Latin of Mass by heart

At sixteen, they sewed a few silver dollars
into her dress and sent her to Ellis Island
to find a way to Pittsburgh and the coal mines
where an arranged marriage waited.

She could cook
Everything from scratch
But never sat at the table until every man was served

Husband was a good man
Until he drank, and then a brute
She ran a boarding house.
Arose at 4:30 every morn to prepare
breakfast and lunch for 23 men
Then walked to town to work
or labored on the farm
Returned to make dinner
washed their clothes until 10:00 PM
Oh yes, and there were kids, 15 in all
one born under a tree…
for labor was a luxury beyond her

Until the end she worked
at last a body worn beyond use
and a weary soul
she died surrounded by those
who loved her.

I understand “Rest in Peace” now.


From → dverse, poetry

  1. Such strength of spirit she displayed, this heroine in your family tree – wonderful write!

    • thanks – hers was a hard, hard life. I always think of her being such a fine cook yet unable to read or have a single recipe written down.

  2. Whew,15 kids. What an accomplishment that is.. I really cannot imagine all those years being pregnant & all that responsibility, but those were indeed different days!

  3. One of your best works I have read so far. Of course, I have been out of the scene for a long time… but it is writings like these that make me want to come back.

    My heart goes out to her. May she rest in peace.

  4. I’ve known such a grandmother! It’s a beautiful poem, a tribute really!

  5. oh heck – that sounds like a tough life – but a good life as well when there are fam and friends that loved her – 4:30 heck… i get up at 5 and sometimes feel sorry for myself…oy

    • yes, she came to the country with a few silver dollars as her life savings. She died on a sixty acre farm, owned free and clear. But it was very hard, and early she was ashamed that the kids had no shoes and the girls only one dress.

      But poineers and pilgrims always bear the burden for the next generation.

  6. Wow, that was one strong woman. How sad it seems, to have a life of labor as such. But also, this is what was learned from the old country (my Polish grandmother had 11 children). You too, must remember that you carry her strength in your bloodlines! Thank you for sharing.

    • yes, immigrants and pioneers purchase an investment that future generations profit from indeed.

  7. What an amazing woman, and the way you tell her story makes it all the more striking. Your closing lines are so apt.

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