Wednesday, 5 February 2014

the sound of her

it seems to me 
that, for as long as I can remember, 
her lovely little laugh 
jingled, gently, through the days of my life 
like windchime tinkles on shushing breezes
or the whispered breaths of rippling leaves  

tiny exclamation marks 
that “abracadabraed” the moments

where we lived:

across the street from each other  
and down the road from our grandmother’s house.

memories of the sweetness  
of those sunbeam hours on nana’s old porch: 

the smell of sweet peas from the garden,
gently wafting through the squeaky screen door 
mingling with whiffs of lead pencils 
and woolworth scrapbooks, 
that we’d fill with our adventures –

and sing and dream about taking our act,  
“the singing cousins" on the road. 

she always made everything seem
“perfectly possible”: 
swimming across the lake, 
skiing down the mountain, 
becoming international rock stars.

we were, in those shining hours 
– invincible – 
and then we weren’t.

sometimes out of nowhere  
(sometimes as soft as leaves rustling)
I hear her giggle in the air

the sound of her
– the heavenly breathy tinkling sound of her  
but she's not there.

note:  Poetry Jam’s prompt for this week was to write a tribute (or eulogy) about someone.  I chose to write about my cousin Susan.  Our sweet Sue, lost her battle with cancer on December 13, 2007 – leaving us far, far too soon.  This poem, you might say, was years in the making, as I have written about her passing several times before.  But the prompt from Poetry Jam gave me the opportunity to weave elements of those previous poems together.

photos:  The Sound of Her - W. Bourke and “The Singing Cousins” – H. Shaw (Mom). 
© 2014 Wendy Bourke


  1. Oh, Wendy, this was such a poignant poem. The details you included gave us some important details about Susan and the friendship the two of you cousins had. I loved the idea of 'the singing cousins,' and I am sure this caused the two of you endless pleasure as you planned for your career. How neat that she and you thought everything was possible. Nice to have that feeling for a few years in your life, isn't it? I am so sorry that she died way too soon, but it sounds like she led a rich life before she passed. And this poem definitely is a wonderful tribute to her!

  2. Thank you, Mary. Susan was a wonderful woman and she lived a chocked full (albeit far to short) wonderful life.

  3. What a lovely tribute to your beloved cousin. I love how you wove in the memories from your early years together. What an honor for her that you wrote this.

  4. She was one of the most genuinely happy people that I have ever known. She is even giggling in the picture, here (one of the first ones I have of her and I together). I was told, by a family member that even towards the end - a nurse remarked: "whenever she has visitors, you can hear that lovely giggle floating through the halls. That is something we rarely hear, on this ward." What an inspiration!

  5. How wonderful to grow up across the street from each other and just down the road from nan.....what a wonderful time you must have had. I love the "heavenly breathy tinkling sound of her" arriving on the air to let you know she's still close by.

  6. Oh, Sherry - I definitely feel her presence, at times - especially when I'm being a grump. I can imagine her giving my hand a tug and whispering - "C'mon, Wend". That's what she always did: whether she was dragging me through the woods behind the camp to a secret spring she had discovered; or urging me to jump into the deep end of the pool. "C'mon, Wend".

  7. Absolutely beautiful and heartfelt...the touches of sweet peas, the squeaky door,the Woolworths scrapbooks were all important imagery in giving expression to your shared closeness and the joy Sue gave to you.I enjoyed this poem immensely.Well done!

  8. Thank you so much. It has been, in some ways, a heart wrenching day for me. I took the prompt from Poetry Jam as a signal that it was time for me to take all the little bits and pieces of memories I have of Sue and try to pull them together. (Way too shattered, six years ago, to go there.) That people have been touched by the piece, means more to me, than I can express. The last thing, she ever said to me - literally - was: I love you, Wend. That's a lot to bring to a poem. But, it has been good, after so many years, to go there.

  9. heavy last line...i love all the little bits of memory...the careful touch on all the senses...the bean smell, ha, i can smell it...i grew up with many cousins and we used to have so many adventures, so there is a fondness there that makes the loss very tangible for me....

  10. It's true. The childhood adventures with friends - or cousin/friends - when you hold the world in your hands, so briefly, are wonderful memories. And yes, the fondness, lingers a lifetime.

  11. This is a very moving poem, Wendy! I enjoyed reading about your closeness. You were cousins but also clearly best friends. I liked all the details you included, your dreams and the idea that for Susan nothing was impossible and that you believed it too because of her.

  12. Yes. She was definitely a very strong person, who embraced every day. Right to the end, I think, a part of me believed: she'll turn it around; she'll find a way - she always does. There are a lot of complicated feelings when someone passes. But when someone so vital and strong and good passes, one is left with something, I think, almost akin to survivor's guilt. It is just so contrary to the natural order of how life is supposed to unfold.

  13. This is beautifully written, the love you held for each other, the tenderness, the closeness, the loss. Lovely words from the heart.

  14. Thank you, Alan. It was an emotional poem for me to write. But, at the end of the day, I feel peaceful. The lovely remarks from people, like you, who read and commented on it - make me feel that it was a good thing for me to do.

  15. I could relate so well to this tribute to your cousin, as I had a favorite girl cousin with a signature laugh, too. Wish we'd lived across the road from each other! What wonderful whispery times and plans we had though...and she too was taken just a few years back. I'm so glad you were able to write this for her. It touched my heart so, and brought me old memories and new tears.

  16. Thank you, Donna, for your lovely comment.

  17. Gorgeous, emotive, one of your best. A fine, fine tribute to such a beloved family member/friend.

  18. Thank you, Jennifer. You may have noticed a bit of familiarity in some of the images, as I've “waded in” a few times on this. It takes a lot of grappling to wrap one’s emotions around loss, I have found. I’m pleased that you found it to be one of my best.

  19. Wendy, this is so beautifully written. I am so sorry for your loss. I hope when you hear her giggle in the air it brings lots of wonderful memories for you.

  20. Yes - a lot of memories - this week especially with the writing of this poem. I have often found peace in writing and that has been very much the case over the last few days.

  21. Such a beautiful tribute, Wendy... brought tears to my eyes!

  22. I got chills toward the end. Poignant work, Wendy.

  23. Thank you so much, Janet. Your comments mean so much to me.

  24. Wendy this is so lovely! the images bright as her laughter. what a gift to have a cousin like that in your life. Thank you for sharing her with us.