Immaculate Conception

by Dr. Mary Ellen Brown

Up early for chores, but afternoons are hers: meant for me too by Judgment Day.
She overhears things, is not afraid to say
                            what she knows for Judgment Day.

Hard to keep secrets in the blue-grey house, where steam rides down the street unbidden. Things we do not say.
                            She guards the stove that day,

to protect us from him. Things we see, we never talk about, she gives it her ear.
She, the only one unbridled by fear – confess aloud–
                            makes stony secrets into play.

Her last days spent at Immaculata Home. Perhaps to hide a secret sin:
she feeds neighbor cats, and Slim, the hired man, out of the same dish most days.

I am not named after her. Could have been. But
                            I was named Mary to stand me in good stead, for Judgment Day.

Mary Ellen Brown has had three incarnations as a writer. Her academic writing about women and media became her first book. Her memoir writing about her Louisiana childhood led her to The Great Smokies Writing Program, which has, in turn, led her to poetry.

About Immaculate Conception—This is my attempt to use the structure of the ghazal, a form with roots in in seventh-century Arabia, to shed light on Southern family secrets.