Poetry from Gregg Norman

MATRIARCH

Sarah stood a tall, broad-shouldered
woman of regal bearing 
wearing a dress always
and faux pearls with a black toile hat
flat as a stove top lid.
She came from Stoke-on-Trent
in old Blighty where she worked 
as a clerk for a millener.
She married her love, Matt,
at a tender age but he toiled in a cage
in a mine and had no prospects.
The only way to escape indenture
was by adventure so they emigrated
uneducated as to their destination.
A trip by ship took them to Halifax,
then on by train to the vast plains
of Saskatchewan, where winter
was so cold, truth be told,
it tore the breath from their mouths
in gouts of astonishment.
But through it all she smiled with a style
far above her raising, a proud, penniless
émigré cleaved to her man standing alone
against a world of possibilities.
Matt hired out to farm a farmer’s land,
while Sarah took to cooking in the farmer’s house.
In time they went to rent  a place nearby
Where the wheat grown was their own.
She bore five children, three daughters 
and two sons, her family then begun.
She suffered through the Great Depression
but never questioned her decision
to become the woman she longed to be.
She was a corner post for most
of the local women in a community
of immigrants, native-born, and transplants.
She thrived, so alive in her role
as a woman risen beyond her station
in a nation where such was possible.
When her Matt died she made her way
to stay with daughters, one, two, three,
then on to a home where she roamed
the long halls on the arms of her 
grandsons, favored over the women
as was the British way. But a slip
and a broken hip sent her to hospital
undressed from her dress and bedded
without her pearls and teeth.
They called upon my mother, but Sarah wanted
no other to see her in what she knew
to be a sorry state, refusing all pleas
to please eat something, saying she knew 
what she had to do – and she did, willing
herself to die at ninety-three,
a woman to be reckoned with
to the end.
 

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