Alfred Fournier

Pine Row Issue No. 7 Summer 2023 - Featured Poet

Old Letter from Mom

         August 4, 1969


When I read the letter in Mom’s

florid script, cursive words leaning

toward a future none of us could see,

I glimpsed who she was before the cancer.


Not a trace of self-pity, each phrase focused

on the needs of child after child—

Joanne’s chickenpox, Little Al’s abscessed tooth,

practical advice for the older kids.


Each line was like a little prayer folded

in the hymnal of her heart. Barely a nod

to her own pending surgery. Not the mom

I remembered from a few years later—


cloistered away, her face hidden

from the light of her youngest children’s eyes.

A shadow missing

on the floor where we played.


After she was gone

I wanted the world to become a desert.

Nothing was more obscene that first spring

than tulips in her garden that bloomed anyway.

About this poem:  as shared by the poet

A while ago, my oldest sister sent me photocopies of two hand written letters from my mom dated 1969. (I was six years old at the time they were sent.) Mom had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, but wrote mostly of her concerns for all her kids, and little of herself. She wrote with a strong faith and a loving voice, not at all like the mother I would know, shrunken and receding from illness, who died when I was eleven. To hold these letters in my hand, now in my fifties! It offered a stunning glimpse of the marvelous woman she was before her life was cut short. I am so grateful for that glimpse, and for everything she gave me while she could.  

Alfred Fournier is a writer and community volunteer in Phoenix, Arizona. His poems have appeared in Pine Row, Third Wednesday, Gyroscope Review, Amethyst Review, Months to Years, The Indianapolis Review and elsewhere. His chapbook “A Summons on the Wind” is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. 

Twitter: @AlfredFournier4. 

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