M is for Maud who was swept out to sea

Maureen Seaton

—Edward Gorey

I’ve been thinking in gruesome dactyls lately and I like the way they sound but not for this particular saga. I just want to tell you straight and unpoetic about my great great grandmother, who was also called Maud without an e, according to my mother, the family historian. I myself know little about my ancestors. When my kids look at old photos and ask, “Who’s that?” I reply, “Could be your Uncle Robby or your cousin, Ursula, once removed.” I know there’s a family tree somewhere. My sister Zoe probably has it. But Zoe pulled a fast Houdini on her siblings years ago when our parents died, then called me up and said: “Don’t try to contact me, sister, I am no longer a part of this family.” “But you’re the only one who gets my poems!” I cried, which sounds silly now, even a little iambic, but at the time it was all I could think of to make her stay, and I was ready to conjure all the iambs (or dactyls) (or trochees) I could to do just that. It may be true that I’ll never see my sister again. It may even be true that she is no longer alive. M is for Maud who was swept out to sea. Z is for Zoe who fell from the sky. D is for dactyls retrieved and untied. Dactyls pretending to be grief.


Maureen Seaton has authored twenty-two poetry collections, both solo and collaborative, most recently, Undersea (Jackleg Press, 2021) and Sweet World (CavanKerry Press, 2019), winner of the Florida Book Award for Poetry. Her awards include the Iowa Prize, Lambda Literary Award for poetry, the Audre Lorde Award, the Midland Authors’ Award, an NEA fellowship, and the Pushcart. Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry as well as numerous anthologies and literary journals. Her memoir, Sex Talks to Girls (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008, 2018), also garnered a “Lammy.” She is Professor Emerita of English and Creative Writing at the University of Miami. Twitter: @mseaton9

                    from The Gashlycrumb Tinies: A Very Gorey Alphabet Book, Edward Gorey, 1963