Eva Whittle



Dear Sister,

On this new year, in this new century
my first child is born, a daughter.
Mrs. Beaumont come to midwife, 
she got me through ten hours of pain

which is all but forgotten now that I hold my babe
in my arms and out the window the forsythia bushes dance
in the warming wind. I call her Mary Inez,
after you, her aunt Mary Ann. 

I wish you could see her, she looks like our momma
with her blue eyes and her perfect round face
rimmed by a halo of dark hair.

I hope it don’t turn red like yours and mine
for the sun will eat her up.

She goes after my breast like a hungry
lion cub and when I pull her off, she cries
like a mad-angry panther in the night.  The world
will have to contend with my Mary Inez.

March, 1900
Beattyville, Kentucky


Dear Sister,

Well, the pale horse and rider
has visited my house once 
again.  He come down 
this mountain and took away 
my dear Harrison 
night before last
right from our bed.

You know I loved the daddy to Mary Inez
and Albert, but Harrison was the husband
who took away my breath 
and although we only had our time
together in months instead of years
he left me with his child
in my body, a child to raise 
by myself.

Mrs. Boden has stayed 
with me these two nights,
She did the string test 
on my belly though I’m not
showing a baby yet.  I know
she did it to slow my tears
and take my mind another 
direction. The string said
there’s a girl and I feel
that it’s right. But I fear
all my salty tears will make 
her a melancholy child.

January, 1910
Beattyville, Kentucky


Eva Whittle, originally from Louisville, has lived in South Central Kentucky since college. She retired from Western Kentucky University in 2011, but continues to teach there on a part-time basis in the English Department. Her poems have been published in Kentucky Feminist Writers (2001).


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