Annie Perconti and Charisse Cecil

Annie Perconti
Looking Back


By Charisse Cecil
Inspiration piece

Dedicated to the memory of “Mom” Lottie Mae Burrell

Lottie never smiles.
Her husband is dead, sons lost to wars
in arid, sandy, faraway lands.
Her hair once hung over her shoulders
like a silky, onyx curtain.
Now it is a frizzled, gray cloud atop her head.
Her hands are stiff now,
no longer the nimble hands
that washed rich folks’ linens
and hung them gracefully on the line
to dry and brighten in the midday sun.
Her skin, once supple and pliant
from passionate handling
and a daily spoonful of cod liver oil,
now drapes over her bones
like parchment paper
and feels like wind-battered leather.

Lottie never looks back.
She doesn’t pine for the days of her youth.
She will not become a pillar of salt.
Instead she will be a pillar in this community
of people so unlike herself.
She takes in boarders – young, brown girls
with bare ring fingers and full baby carriages.
She simmers lemon, garlic, onions and pepper
in a pot, the antidote
to stuffy little noses and congested chests.
Lottie gathers the forgotten pieces of her life –
John’s work pants, Junior’s receiving blanket,
Paul’s favorite pajamas – and sews them
into quilts to keep the babies warm.

When the feverish babies are soothed
and their young, fearful mothers can finally
succumb to slumber,
Lottie looks back, and smiles.


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