by Jean Cassidy

My mother
the last half
of her pregnancy
in an iron lung
trolling for breath.

She used to be
a painter and a pianist
surrounded by air and light,
color and melody.
How could she get used to
living encased
in the amorphous,
atonal, antiseptic
day in
day out
of fluorescent light,
and the relentless drone
of the mechanical lung?

My mother didn’t live a long life.
I think the price to stay
must have felt like usury.

Once she relinquished her dreams
she let the undertow

Jean Cassidy was born in Chicago. At seventeen, she entered the Adrian Dominican Sisters Congregation, where she received undergraduate and graduate degrees before finishing at the University of Michigan as a clinical social worker and community organizer. Since 2005, she has served as managing editor for Sheville, the women’s Internet magazine of Western North Carolina.

About Submerged—“Submerged” is what I refer to as a break-though poem. It is the first part of a trilogy I’ve written that describes the family environment I was born into in 1946. My early childhood experience was deeply affected by the polio epidemic of the 1940s and ’50s.