Email from Marty: ‘We Are Nine’

My brother, Marty, sent me an email the other week. It consisted mainly of a poem. His intro at the top of the email was this parenthetical information:

With apologies, and thanks to Wm. Wordsworth. Please compare his lovely poem, “We Are Seven.”

We Are Seven” was written in 1798 (remember the ’90s?), published in Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads. From Wikipedia: “The poem describes a discussion between an adult poetic speaker and a ‘little cottage girl’ about the number of brothers and sisters who dwell with her. The poem turns on the question of whether to count two dead siblings as part of the family.”


William Wordsworth: with a migraine?

My parents, Jack and Paula, were children of the Great Depression who died—separately in old age and in their separate parts of the world—within the past few years. They created a classic post-World War II, post-Korean War, American nuclear family that broke up post-Vietnam War (think Ordinary People times about three and a half). They had seven children: Marty, Paula, me, Maryann, Tony, Barbie, and Ken. In that order (boy girl boy girl boy girl boy). All together we were nine. And yes, Barbie and Ken. Could be American marketing; could be the fact that my Dad had a brother Ken and my Mom had a sister Barbara. (In fact, I have a brother Ken and a son Ken. And a cousin, Kenny, who is the son of my Dad’s brother, my Uncle Ken. But I digress.)

My brother, Tony, died in an auto accident in 1983 a month before his 26th birthday. My sister, Paula, died of multiple organ failure in 2008 at age 59.

Without further ado, as if that’s possible for me, here’s the poem my brother Marty sent to me by email:

We Are Nine

A wond’ring child,
That sweetly draws her breath,
And feels God’s life in every thing,
What could she know of death?

 I met a playing girl:
“Next week I’m nine,” she said.
Her hair was sun,
Bright sun upon her head.

She had a wild woodland air
And she was strangely clad.
Such blue, her eyes…
Her beauty makes me glad.

Her dress is all the greens that are.
Her happy feet are bare.
Her gaze…
So kind and bright.
And round her weaves the quiet
Of a holy night.

“Sisters and brothers, lovely one:
Are there more than you?”
“Together we are seven,” she nods,
And her eyes shine blue.

“Where are they all? Pray, tell.”
“Mary is the middle one….
She lives East,
Whence comes the Sun….”

To help her think,
Her thumb goes to her mouth.
“Barbara lives in Midland,
And Keith lives South.”

“Ken lives West….
Martin moves around….
Mom and Dad and Tony and I,
We live in the Holy Ground–

In the ever so High and Holy Ground
Where God is found.”

Thirty now she looked, to me,
And wondrous fair.
Her silvery gown shed light around,
Like gold in air
(Gold  brushed with living green):
The most of loveliness
That I had ever seen….

There stood a little church hard by,
Of stone, as old as God,
And ’round about it
Tombstones in the sod.

Through its oaken door I go,
For I must pray.
But the sunlight that fills it
Is brighter than the day.

A woman at the altar
Is offering up a cup,
And Angels bending down to her,
To bless, and sip, and sup.

A lad of kindest goodness
Is serving at her side.
And the place is packed with people,
All the people who have ever died.

For God is in the Sun light,
And God is in the Soul,
And God is the Good who heals us all,
Who makes us One, and Whole.

For God shines down
Through the Sun above.
For God shines through the Soul.
For God’s the Good who heals all things,
Who makes all creatures whole.

Through the stars above, our God shines down.
(From Earth on out,   ALL stars are up.)
For God is where the Center is,
In Fire and Breath, in Bread and Cup.

Through uncounted galaxies,
Our God on high shines down.
(From here, Below,    ALL galaxies are up.)
For God is where the Center is,
In Breath and Fire, in Bread and Cup.

From the furthest, farthest, highest verge
Our seeing God shines down.
From the deepest, brightest, point of Earth,
Our God sees all around.

For God is in the Earth-light.
For God is in the Soul.
For God is the Love who saves all things,
Who makes all beings whole.

From you, the so-called living,
From us, the so-called dead,
From the Light so wise and holy,
From the Body and the Bread…

*    *    *

A wond’ring child,
Who sweetly draws each breath,
And feels God’s life in everything,
What does she know of death?

I assume the “playing girl” (Wordsworth’s “little cottage girl”) is my late sister, Paula (“Mom and Dad and Tony and I, we live in the Holy Ground—”). And the rest just makes me cry, so I won’t go into it right now.

Since titles can’t be copyrighted, I think Marty legitimately could have kept with Wordsworth’s original title, “We Are Seven.” That Marty includes Mom and Dad in the count, again, just makes me want to cry, so I move on.

I wanted to post this here so that it was published somewhere, as Marty missed the Information Age by a few years. (He was around, just not interested. Now that I think of it, the fact that he sent me an email is amazing. Now that I think of it again, it wasn’t an email, it was an extremely long Messenger text, that I slapped into a Word document. But I’m too lazy to change the headline here.) In fact, I have everything Marty ever wrote to me, handwritten, and it is massively, incredibly, incomprehensibly beautiful, all of it, and I’m convinced now, as always, he will be famous after he dies.

And then, as for always with me now, we are nine.


Top row (l to r): Ken, Maryann, Marty, Barbie, Paula. Seated (l to r): Mom, Tony, me. Dad probably took the photo, as was often the case. I’m not sure of the identities of the two little girls in the foreground.

KJC dingbat-thumbnail

About Keith Croes

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Posted on January 31, 2017, in Autobiographical, Family, Poetry, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. And I wish I had known all my cousins better. Including you and Michael.


  2. Marty’s poetry is stunning. Besides its lyrical beauty, it rouses me from cynicism. Not that I am a cynic, but his words lessened whatever measure of it I’m carrying around..The storyline does not escape me either. I, too, lost a brother. Michael was just 24 years old.

    NowI I must read the poem again…aloud.


    • Thanks, cuz. I wanted to mention how you and I got together (by email!). But that’s a post for another time. I’m hoping my siblings will add to this post, perhaps correcting any of my inevitable inaccuracies. Yes, Marty is one hell of a writer. One of these days I’m going to transcribe his letters and lend to his eventual establishment in the literary firmament. If there is such a thing. He’s sure rocked my world in many ways.

      And I wish I had known all my cousins better. Including you and Michael.


Thanks! Your thoughts always appreciated.

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