Sergeant Eleanor: A Writer Wednesday Post

November 12th, 2014 | Posted by Irene in Poetry | Publication News

Uncle Johnny's FlagUncle Johnny’s Flag, photo & all text ⓒ Irene O’Garden, 2014 

I remember so many people with special love on Veteran’s Day: my father Don, my father-in-law Len, my brother Dan, Uncle Johnny and the countless others who offered the gift of their service. Today I want to introduce you to Eleanor, mother of Scott (my most long-playing friend) and his beloved sister Andee. Over the years, I was privileged to spend time with the remarkable Eleanor, enjoying her joyful fashion sense, eating her beautifully prepared food and witnessing firsthand her powerful love. Her stunning military funeral inspired the following poem.

(It is cast in a form I created a few years back: the “fulcrum poem,” in which meaning twists on repeated phrases. Since the ear loves repetition but the eye does not, I have placed the fulcrums in superscript. These words should be read twice.  If you like puzzles, read the poem. If you’d rather listen, please click here: Sergeant Eleanor




In Which a Bird Appears.


Sergeant Eleanor is laid to rest

in fields of blooming yellow mustard eggs

in silver buckets later at the salad bar thoughts

of army women in the service Sergeant

Eleanor was happy. Fought for freedom

and was happy giving and receiving orders

of nuns almost army women in the forties served

a god-shaped army in peacetime

couldn’t use this soldier on did


Sergeant Eleanor: husband, baby. Twice.

Third man no better. No matter.

A daughter. A son. Lives to guard, honor

Sergeant Eleanor, who fought for freedom

when divorce drew fierce artillery

of shame as well in purplehearted sacrifice

of factory work of loneliness like flaying

bayonets stripped from barrels by the honor guard

at her grave  looks on the veterans; warring


Sergeant Eleanor wore costume jewelry,

turquoise and magenta, fought on vodka,

cigarettes, bedtime stories, in combat

with doctors, bankers, teachers.

For these kids. That clear? Motherhood:

a hundred thousand acts of bravery.

And a helluva lemon meringue.


Sergeant Eleanor made herself goddam heard.

Three shots shock like broken eggs’ shells fly

from soldiers’ rifles lay a soldier

in the grave salute flag folded wings



Sergeant Eleanor’s daughter and son

open the car at the crossroads of dust shrieks

from a rust-ringed feathered throat

Kildeer at the right front tire,

fatherless her dusty nest a gravel patch.

Two speckled eggs warm with life.





Publication News: I am pleased to announce that an essay of mine appears in the Connecting: Celebrating the People and Places of The Hudson Highlands, a glorious, freshly-published, coffee-table-worthy book of sumptuous photographs and essays. (I was asked to write about the arts here.) There is a celebration and book-signing at Winter Hill on Thursday, November 20, from 6:00-8:00 pm. I’d be so happy to see you there.

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  • darrie

    Beautiful, Irene… what a loving detailed tribute to a remarkable woman… you make her live in my imagination, of course… HAPPY T”GIVING… xo darrie

    • IreneOGarden

      Darrie, thanks dearly–your imagination is such rich place to live! Happy Thanksgiving to you! Love, I

  • Laura

    Stunning imagery and for me, the most memorable Veteran of the Year!

    • IreneOGarden

      Warm thanks, Laura–She would have enjoyed you immensely–

  • ceblain

    Your writings give me so much delight and inspiration. This is a truly remarkable story and I wanted to thank you for giving us such wonderful information about this special lady.

    • IreneOGarden

      I appreciate your words,Cynthia–thanks for reading!

  • Scott

    This poem illuminates my mother for me. Her life and service so beautifully preserved in these honest words are cracks of light in the dimension between physical life and physical death. My mother is saluting.

    • IreneOGarden

      Thank you for sharing her with us, dear Scott–

  • Mark Rettman

    Reading this is great but if other visitors here want a ” full heart” experience, listen to Irene read this one….

    • IreneOGarden

      Many Thanks, Mark–I know you are a-swirl in such stories these days–

  • Debra Griner

    What a woman. What a tribute. Thank you for filling me with thoughts and images of Scott’s remarkable mother. She really was something. And that Lemon Meringue was something else! Such happy memories of visiting her, the smell of her kitchen warm with dinner ready for us, cookies on the counter and pies in the fridge! This is so beautiful, Irene. Mark is right about this one. It’s best when Irene reads it. xo

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