My Mother’s Emerald Ring
by Julia McGuinness

circled a finger on hands that tended me;
deft and gemmed with green stone,
bringer of healing and calm; exotic
as Crème de Menthe or depths marine.

Ring set with a 9 by 6mm emerald
exquisite as a baby’s fingernail;
father’s gift for the gift of me,
birthstone for my month of May

and green years of bare feet
on dewed grass; lime-tanged sweets
in sticky hoards; her ring’s flash
as she made me a dress to match.

Her hands wrinkled, mind slowed
to ringless days in the Care Home.
I placed her emerald safe in a box,
dulled to a pebble of memory.

Her hands grown cold as stone
still I kept her ring in the dark;
carried it close as a secret
till I could gaze on it again

and see more clear and deep
a heart gardened with light,
pure-bodied green flawed
in patient containing of other.

I stroke its grazed edge,
put emerald on my finger;
brush my lips across its face;
cushion it with a kiss.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Mum’s emerald ring.


My mother died in January 2016, shortly after her eighty-fifth birthday. Putting on her ring a couple of months ago was an important step in my grieving. I felt reconnected to the lovely mother I had known before Parkinson’s Disease and dementia took over in her last few years. Writing the poem was soothing, drawing me towards a richer encounter with both the emerald and my mother’s life. As I wear the ring now, it has come to represent her continuing precious presence in my memory. The poem celebrates this new-found permanence.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My parents John and Josephine Burras with me, Julia Denise, as a baby, in 1958. This was taken at home in Formby village, a few miles north of Liverpool, where my father worked as a buyer of fabrics for Littlewoods’ Department Store.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julia McGuinness lives in Cheshire, north-west England, with a husband and three black cats. She is a writer and therapist who also combines the two in running creative Write for Growth workshops as well as writing with cancer patients. Her books include Writing our Faith (SPCK) and her first poetry collection Chester City Walls was published in 2015 by Poetry Space. Follow her on twitter.