In honor of National Poetry Month celebrated in April, I’ve been meaning to post a poem that I believe my great grandmother, Josephine wrote over 100 years ago.
On March 2, 1893, this short death notice appeared in the Southwestern Christian Advocate:
Josephine had not yet married my great grandfather, James Ford, so she was still Josephine Burton. A.B. & C. H. Stuart were her brother, Alfred Burton and his wife, Clara Harding.
A week later on March 9th in the same paper, this poem appeared:
The poem doesn’t appear to be attributed to anyone. I guess it could be a known poem that was just personalized with little Frankey’s name, but because it appeared in the same paper in which my great-grandmother, Josephine made frequent contributions almost all about her love of God, I believe Josephine wrote this poem to mark the passing of her young beloved niece.
My very first attempts at creative writing when I was little were all poems, all about God, like Josephine’s other publications in the Southwestern. The thought that Josephine may have written this poem makes me feel like I knew her, and her sentiments, even though we never met. It’s as if she handed down, and I picked up “the heritage of mind and heart” that Antoine de Saint-Exupery spoke of in his poem, Generation to Generation. He wrote that, “Love, like a carefully loaded ship crosses the gulf between the generations.” Discovery of this poem and all of Josephine’s writings (our common love) shrinks that gulf between my great-grandmother and me.
I hope you enjoy the following poem about forgotten history by Pulitzer prize winner and Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, who hails from Gulfport, Mississippi, a stone’s throw from Josephine’s home, Ocean Springs: