for Celia Sheridan
In 1882, on a voyage from Ireland to America, my great grandmother died giving birth to her son, who also died.
Your husband holds your daughter’s hand
as he mumbles something about heaven,
angels very near them both, still,
listening, like sailors on watch.
I imagine you slender, with long hair,
laughing softly, even when so ill.
That is the silly thing we are taught,
to be brave instead of sad.
Were you a devout Catholic
or did you read the Tarot,
trembling when the death card turned?
Your gentleness which I am
suddenly certain of
is like a white rose in a clear vase.
I like to think you owned
at least one beautiful dress,
a young girl’s princess dress, soft, lace,
and so feminine those who saw you smiled.
I wish I had a photograph of you
in that perfect dress, young,
Irish, and susceptible to dreams.
© Barbara Alfaro