The 2013 April (Poetry Month) Issue of the Dead Mule
is dedicated to the memory of
Elsie R. Jones
May 13, 1921 – March 12, 2013
Beloved Mother of Poetry Editor Helen Losse.
Elsie Rosa Jones, born in Swindon, Wiltshire, England, was the youngest of eight children in the Jefferies family. Her father Arthur was a railroad engine mechanic and her mother Emma a tailor’s apprentice. Elsie immigrated to the US in 1946, following her marriage to Earl R. Jones, an American GI whom she met at a social at St. Augustine’s Church in Swindon. She became a US citizen in 1957.
From her childhood, Elsie loved to read. She continued to be an avid reader until macular degeneration robbed her of her sight. Even then, she enjoyed books by listening to them on tape. She was a Biblical scholar, who gave book reviews, provided leadership, and taught Bible studies and Sunday School at First Christian Church in Joplin, MO. Elsie passed both her love of learning and her faith to her children and grandchildren.
Her children, Helen Losse, Pam Howerton, and Michael Jones, recall their mother singing as she worked around the house when they were children. They remember hearing their first poems from their mother. As a gardener, Elsie filled her home and yard with plants. She was a talented seamstress and Craft person and knit like a machine, providing clothing, sweaters, and gloves for her family.
Elsie was a patient, generous, and loving woman, who taught by example as well as by words, a Christian in the best sense of the word. She spent most of her time and money on others, especially family members with whom she was extremely generous. She helped not only her children but several grandchildren get college educations.
In the final years of her life, Elsie spent most of her time alone or with family. Her sons-in-law and daughter-in-law were close to her as were her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Those who knew and loved her will miss her. She was preceded in death by her husband Earl, who died in 1990.
The Powder Box by Helen Losse
—for Elsie R. Jones
As a child, I loved cleaning day, my mother
taking her special things from the top of her dresser
and placing them gently on the bed. She let Pam,
Michael, and me look at them, touch them.
We promised to be careful, while she worked her
soft dust cloth, and usually were. Among the items
was the Powder Box that’s in the bathroom now—
the one at the back of the house near the kitchen,
near the drawer where Grover Pinky slept,
when it was too cold to keep him in the hatch,
near the place where the low table held Jergins lotion
to keep our mother’s soft hands soft. The box is not gold,
though it seems so to me. Perhaps, it’s ivory—or stone.
I saw a match book inside, when last I lifted its lid.
Shortly after our parents married in Swindon,
Mummy’s home town in green and southern England,
Daddy, who was then a soldier, was sent to Belgium,
then shipped back home to Joplin. Mum followed,
taking the Queen Mary and a train ride from New York.
I digress here into the drama of an oral history,
(for I was not yet born). It seems
another American soldier, who was going home
before Daddy, offered him the box, which Daddy took,
thinking his young wife would like it. The box had
had a lid, but the soldier dropped it, when
full arms would hold no more. And still, he had
presence of mind to describe his walking route,
in the off-chance that his comrade might find
the lost piece like Daddy did, and pluck it—
retrieve it, from a foreign storm-gutter.
first published by The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature