My mother has been on my mind of late. With Mother’s day coming next month, I thought I’d devote this blog to her. She was born with a birthmark on her face. When she was eight, my grandmother took her to New York City where she was treated in hopes of fading the stain. It didn’t work. The following poem I wrote to detail what she went through.       
                        THE EXPERIMENT
                        Raspberry, blueberry, brandy red wine,
                        a devil’s mark the size of her hand 
                        squats on the left side of her face,
                        making her scarred at birth.

                        Miscast as shy, she quietly hides
                        from children’s taunts and adults who
                        are unaware of her beauty within
                        as she continues to age.

                         A wooden box sits on her skin,
                        spewing rays through a tiny hole.
                        The radium will fade the unwanted spot,
                        promises made to a child of eight.

                        Raspberry, blueberry, brandy red wine remains
                        with intermittent rashes and bubbles of puss.
                        The wind bursts the boil and exposes raw flesh.
                        Mistakes are removed at eighteen. 

                        Seven layers of flesh cut from the chin
                        replaced by a circle of skin from the arm,
                        replaced by a circle of skin from the thigh.
                        Scar upon scar multiply at twenty-four.

                        A monstrous white head sits on her shoulders
                        made of plaster with holes for eyes and nose,
                        equipped with a removable straw,
                        creating an alien being at thirty-one.

                         A growth in the womb has no life
                        yet develops, robbing her appetite,
                        filling each day with a horrible dread. 
                        Cancer’s curse comes at forty-three. 

                        On the third stair, she loses her breath.
                        Ten minutes later she reaches the top.
                        Slowly, so slowly the lungs are destroyed
                        and finish her life at fifty-seven.

                        A follow-up letter inquires of her health.
                        All patients involved in the bleaching experiment
                        have died of cancer.   Are you doing well?
            Raspberry, blueberry, brandy red wine.

My mother was my best friend with a nurturing personality. She sat while I drew her for the etching pictured above, she listened to my stories, laughed at my jokes. A wonderful woman and I miss her every day. I hope you were blessed with someone like her who encouraged you and helped you on your journey.


  1. Marion, What a beautiful, personal tribute to your mother. When I worked in pediatrics we had a patient born with what they called "port wine" stain. I remember the parents wanting something done, and our doctors saying even as late as the 80's that it was better to investigate concealers, that any attempts to remove a similar birthmark had ended badly. I remember the mother crying and the father vowing to take his child elsewhere to doctors who'd "do something". I hope they didn't go that route after hearing your story. I'm glad your mother had you in her corner.

    1. It wasn't until I was in high school and discovered ERASE, a cover-up that was like a skin tone in a tube, that my mother had anything to cover the discoloration and scars.

  2. That is a beautiful poem and such a powerful way to remember and honor your mother! She sounds like a gorgeous person inside and out- no medical correction needed.

  3. What a lovely personal tribute. After I grew up (lol), my mother was my idol.

    1. I considered my mother an angel. When I grew up, I discovered she wasn't that perfect, merely human and we became even closer.

  4. Marion, this is so incredibly lovely. It breaks my heart to think of what your mother must have gone through. It sounds like she was a very strong person and wonderful role model.

  5. Marion - beautiful sketches, both with pen and with words. It hurts to think about how difficult that all was for her, but she apparently prevailed. And she produced you - a good thing for all of us. My mother was 4'11" with Napoleonic tendencies, and loved me above all things. And that's such a great way to get started in life.

    1. My mother always encouraged me and would even take along things I had made to show off to people. I grew up thinking I could conquer anything.

  6. It's sad when physical flaws detract from the most important attributes that exist from within; when superficial people don't recognize inner qualities. That's so common in this beauty obsessed world we live in today. It sounds like your mom was one beautiful lady who possessed the more important inner qualities. From the looks of that etching, she certainly looks lovely on the outside as well. Very touching tribute.

    1. I drew her reflection in a mirror since the etching reverses when it's printed. When it was through she thought it looked more like her mother.

    2. I read your poem to my husband yesterday and we both felt so bad for what your mother went through. It doesn't seem fair what some are forced to endure, although we all know that life is not always fair. Our hearts go out to you.

  7. Marion, your portrait of your mother is exquisite. You are a fine artist as well as a great writer! It's sad that people look on the outside and ignore inner beauty...

  8. Replies
    1. Thanks for coming by. She died more than 40 years ago and I still miss her.

  9. What a lovely tribute. The drawing is beautiful and the poem even more so. Thank you for sharing them with us.

    1. I've so many memories of her that constantly inspire. Thank you for your comments.

  10. What a beautiful tribute! You are so artistic and an amazing writer. Your Mom is looking down at you smiling, and is so proud of you. We have been special friends for over 50 years, and we are thankful to have so many wonderful memories! Love you!

    1. Dear Erika, thank you for coming by. We've shared so many experiences and I'm sure one of these days, you'll be in one of my books.


  11. Marion,
    Wow, daunting. Especially that all patients died, meaning we only got to hear one story. There are other poems out there needing to be written.

    1. So true. She received that letter while in the hospital only days before she died.

  12. Marion, This is one of the most haunting odes to a mother or any woman whom we are honored to call "friend", I have ever read. God bless you and I am so sorry you do not have her with you daily.


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