her life was couched within parentheses,
which is to say mere mention of her was in passing,
perhaps as she passed, in a whisper of a breath,
in a quick glance away.
we know her name, we know the year,
we know her parents, who went on to have 3 sons.
they lived a fine life, as i understand it,
a life of custom-made mansions, trips abroad,
philanthropic gestures that made
for a life envied by most.
but the loss of a little one must have always been near,
always in the magnificent rooms where guests
enjoyed crumpets and tea, heard lectures
about the unlimited possibilities of the 20th century,
and celebrated holiday after holiday with the family
who felt in every room the presence of another.
i had a paid assignment to write a short piece
about this family, with a quick turnaround,
and in my haste to summarize its members, i wrote:
(Unfortunately, a daughter, Elizabeth, passed away in 1890 at age four.)
i woke up the next day with this sentence in my head.
and my immediate verdict was this:
clumsy writing, at best,
tragic writing, at worst.