“Dispatches from a Pandemic: Marion, Massachusetts” by Elizabeth Brulé Farrell

acm nun
Farrell’s great-aunt Sister Theresa de Jesus, born Laura Fontaine

The daughter of a doctor in Worcester, Massachusetts, my great-aunt traveled by rail to Canada to fulfill what she thought would be her destiny: teacher of music, math, the fine needle art of making altar cloths.

Her father wished her to remain running his office, doing his books, speaking the French of their ancestors that helped his patients feel less afraid when he thrust a swab down their throats.

She left him. Left the country. Left her long hair on the floor of the monastery.

It was the flu in 1918 that took her life. Thirty-eight years old and an Ursuline nun. Her faith did not spare the spike in the temperature that began her descent.  The ground was frozen in March that year.  Her body became the same. No shovel tip could penetrate the cold, so instead of hallowed ground she was laid to rest in a basement vault with her name on a plaque.  Never would there be flowers for her.

Coronavirus now.  Naming it organizes what to fix our minds upon. We knew what that was yesterday.



Elizabeth Brulé Farrell has published poems in Poetry East, The Paterson Literary Review, Comstock Review, Earth’s Daughters, Spillway, Common Ground Review, Pilgrimage, The Healing Muse, Except for Love: New England Poets Inspired by Donald Hall, The Awakenings Review, and more.  She was a recipient of The Louise Bogan Memorial Award for Poetry. She used to write advertising copy in Chicago before moving to New England, the home of her extended family.