Marly Youmans: The Wish for Roses

Hazel Tuttle

“This is, regrettably, the only picture I have of my great-aunt Hazel Tuttle, who committed suicide in 1919. She is shown trimming the great bush of rambling roses at the hotel her mother operated in Wolf Lake, Indiana.” — Fredric Koeppel


The Wish for Roses
Marly Youmans

You were as graceful as a hazel wand —
A kind of magic spell, the arc of arm
Reaching to cut the roses from the wall,
The outward swing of your long, snowy skirt.
You were a hazel wand in that man’s hand;
He would make magic with your heart and bones.
He swept you off your little buttoned boots,
Made promises that love could hardly keep.
And so a world of roses slipped away,
Mother and sisters left to wave and sigh.
Who would have thought his warmth could be a trick,
His prairies as romantic as a plow?
What lies he told — you tied a sack with strings
Around your narrow waist and slowly bent
To enter dark, the soddie rank with fug
Of five unkempt children, their mother dead.
You dreamed of roses, dreamed of mother, too —
And wrote to ask if she would take you in.
But she said no, Hazel, that you must bend
And bend again to serve that family.
Look at the only photograph — the wand
Of you, the rose, the loveliness of hair
Light-kissed, and intricately wound and pinned.
Would it have been a sin to flee away,
To sink into the roses of your home,
Accepting thorn and fragrance equally,
Knowing yourself the briar and the rose —
Forgetting children, fleeing hoax and smoke,
The man so fleet to whisper words of love,
Forgetting crypt (the house made out of sod),
The apron tying you to fire and stone:
Poor child, I hope you dreamed a world of rose
That morning when you drank the lye and died.

    For Fredric Koeppel, in memory
    of his great-aunt, Hazel Tuttle


MARLY YOUMANS is a writer. Her recent books are an adventure in blank verse, Thaliad (Montreal: Phoenicia Pubishing, 2012); several collections of poems, including The Foliate Head (UK: Stanza Press, 2012) and The Throne of Psyche (Mercer University Press, 2011); and a novel, A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (Mercer, 2012 / The Ferrol Sams Award + Silver Award, ForeWord BOTYA.) Forthcoming novels include: Glimmerglass and a reprint of Catherwood in 2014 and Maze of Blood in 2015 (Mercer).

FREDRIC KOEPPEL is a an award-winning wine and food writer. Hazel Tuttle was his great-aunt. Hindsight is grateful to him for the opportunity to share her story and image. In his words: “I had the tale from my mother, who didn’t even know of the existence of her aunt Hazel until she found a photograph when she (my mother) was 16 and asked her mother, Hazel’s sister, about it. What happened was that sometime around the end of WWI, a man from Montana, traveling from the east, came through Wolf Lake, Indiana, and stayed at my great-grandmother’s hotel. He was a larger-than-life Westerner and swept Hazel off her feet and they quickly married. When she got out to the endless emptiness of the high plains, she discovered that her new husband was a widower with five children and that they lived in a sod house out in the middle of nowhere. After a few months of isolation and taking care of five kids, Hazel wrote to her mother asking if she could return to the family fold, and her mother wrote back and said, basically, that she should not even think about disgracing her family that way and she better stay with her husband and his children. So in 1919, Hazel Tuttle drank lye and died, horribly.”

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