Ila, born 1919 in Salinas, CA

NaPoWriMo Day 8  

Yes, it's day 11, but my Monday-Saturday poems are A-Z, so I'm posting a NaPoWriMo prompt on Sundays only.

Also, linking to Poets and Storytellers United  Writers' Pantry #65.

The Prompt: "Today, I’d like to challenge you to read a few of the poems from Spoon River Anthology, and then write your own poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead...  (It)...  could be a fictional remembering of some important moment, or statement of purpose or philosophy. Be as dramatic as you like – Masters’ certainly didn’t shy away from high emotion in writing his poems."

Given permission to be "dramatic," with a "statement of purpose or philosophy," I may be forgiven for standing on a soapbox and not shying away from "high emotion"!  The origin of this poem and it's true events are given at the bottom, along with statistics which may cause some to stop and think.  I can only hope.  


I remember Ruby with her curly hair.

She had a little wire-haired terrier pup

she carried in a basket.

Then Ruby died.



Rodney ran the fastest

of any boy in school.

Pertussis killed Rodney.

He couldn’t breathe to run… or to live.

Whooping Cough.


Mary and her sister May

were both born deaf and blind.

Their mother had a virus, mild in adults,

with the twins unborn inside her.

German Measles.


I saw so many die,

others left disabled.

My classmates, playmates, neighbor babies.

Bacteria or virus.

Diphtheria.  Mumps.


So, why, I wonder,

do parents now,

forego the simple shots,

for things that killed so many?

The Preventable Diseases.


Their children suffer

and spread disease,

many will still die.

Whooping cough and Measles, Chicken pox. 

They’re back again. 

My late mother told me she remembered children she knew, playmates of hers, dying from what are now preventable childhood illnesses.  The names here are fictional, but not the illnesses suffered.  My mother wondered why any parent today would choose not to vaccinate?  Had they forgotten, become complacent?  Fooled by false data?  Rebelling against regulations?  I had mumps. I had measles.  I had chicken pox.  I am still alive, but I was very sick and missed a lot of school.  I never did learn to “sound out” my words; I missed those weeks in early elementary school.  Perhaps I passed my illnesses on to ones not so fortunate to survive unscathed, or even to survive at all.  There were no vaccines in my childhood days.  I was 5 or 6 when the polio vaccine (administered on a sugar cube) became available.  My family stood in line with our neighbors at the local elementary school to receive our dose.  Un-vaccinated children are not just a danger to themselves, but to others they come across who may have compromised immune systems, or infants too young to be fully vaccinated themselves. 

 Early childhood diseases are still killers.       


Measles – 500,000 deaths worldwide annually, 1 in 1,000 dies.

Mumps – 1 in 10 cases leads to meningitis.  Bacterial meningitis may cause brain damage, seizures,  hearing loss, or death.  The vaccines that prevent measles, mumps, chicken pox and the 'flu can prevent viral meningitis. 

Whooping Cough – Such severe coughing a child may have seizures, brain infections or be unable to breath.

Rubella/German Measles – A fetus of a pregnant woman with Rubella has an 80% chance of developing “congenital rubella syndrome,” which leads to deafness, blindness, heart or brain damage, and mental impairment.

Tetanus – Produces a toxin causing painful muscle cramps strong enough to break a child’s bones, and 1 or 2 out of  every 10 children with tetanus will die.

Chicken Pox – If a pregnant woman gets chicken pox near childbirth, the infant may be infected.    1 out of 3 will die.  

Polio - The US has been free of polio since 1979, thanks to vaccination programs.  But,  because it still exists in other countries, vaccination is still necessary to protect your children and yourselves.  There are no vaccine requirements for visitors to the US, nor do US residents need vaccines to re-enter the country from abroad.    Polio can cause paralysis, leaving one unable to walk or breath.    

The font used today is "Bitter," an intentional choice.  

 ©2021 Lisa Smith Nelson. All Rights Reserved



  1. Your poetry, the message is simply amazing and so true. In my late 70's now I remember the diseases you mention, whooping cough I had and still remember. Polio and the prospect of contracting it was truly terrifying ....

    1. Thank you, I'm so glad you appreciated the poem's message! I remember mumps. My first solid food I remember too. Little balls of blueberry muffin mixed with butter! Unfortunately, in my state all a parent needs to do to refuse "required" immunizations for school enrollment is to watch an online module about immunizations and print out a certificate. One school district in my area has a very high rate of un-vaccinated children. Let's just say it... Ashland is shown as Most Vulnerable, with less than 80% of the students fully vaccinated. By and large, it's residents are more well-off than the rest of the county. Interestingly, I found the map showing this in detail, and most of my city's schools are at 90-95%, except the charter and religious schools. My late husband was raised by a Christian Scientist mother. In Virginia he had to get vaccines to go to school, no exemptions (at least then), so he got them. He fainted in the elevator after his Small Pox one, and that wasn't even a needle type of thing!

  2. Wow! I loved how you wove the message so clearly into this poem. We must vaccinate and prevent preventable diseases. Why not? I don't understand the logic of those who don't!

  3. Hi Lisa, this is putting out the word, I am glad that you included statistics. My grandmother died in 1918 of the flu epidemic, Mom was seven and brought it home from school, there were no vaccines then so people just took their consequences. My sister said Mom felt guilty all the rest of her life for 'killing' her mother but of course for them that was just fate.
    Best wishes on the writing. I have written every day so far but at the beginning a had decided that it might come to just writing on weekend or the group publishing that we both contribute.

    1. I can see how your mother would carry that with her. A seven year old was too young to understand. My maternal grandfather died from pneumonia when my mother was 8. When my late husband was diagnosed with it, she told my kids not to worry, there were antibiotics now, not like when her dad had it. Well, he died anyway, because pneumonia does that still in our day. I get my 'flu shots without fail, and I got my pneumonia and shingles ones when I got "old enough."

  4. I find the whole idea of not vaccinating children scary, frustrating, and sad. I mean, I understand apprehension for something new, but to not prevent a terrible disease when all the tools are there... well, that a terrible thing, an unforgivable thing.

    The tone, pace, and structure of the poem is so very effective.

    1. Yes, apprehension can be strong, like now with the COVID-19 shot. When the benefits far outweigh the risks though, I think "unforgivable" is a good word to use.

  5. Amen great poem I so agree More and more people come up with all sorts of conspiracy theories to not vaccinate. Very dangerous development

    1. They seem afraid to research the truth themselves too. Like all the doctors in the world, all the scientists, are plotting together to fool them.

  6. a chilling poem, in a way, that so many young lives that are lost through disease could be easily prevented. i think it is a good reminder to those parents that are hesitating because of misinformation, lies and conspiracy theories. Do what is right for the child.

    1. You are so right, do what is right for the child. Listen to the experts, the doctors and scientists.

  7. I too agree. I'm of an age that as a child I had whooping cough, chicken pox and the measles. I escaped German measles and mumps, but they were common. Luckily, in our relatively affluent society, most kids survived these, which were then considered normal childhood diseases. Polio was a different story; I'm very glad I didn't get that, and that when my kids were little the vaccine became available.

    1. I didn't have whooping cough, but did have the others. I don't remember German measles, because it's a mild virus (except to a fetus), but when I was going to get the shot as a teenager the doctor said my antibodies were already there for it. I do remember mumps very well. If you have chicken pox, you can get shingles later in life, and my mother suffered horribly from shingles.

  8. I think the reason why some people forego some vaccines is that the risk of contaminated vaccines may be equal to or greater than the risk of some of the diseases...before the MMR vaccine was pushed on parents, I remember my brother grumbling because we'd had mumps before he was in school, so now he couldn't have the vacation other kids were getting when it went around again! (Neither of us had any pain at all with mumps.) Polio and diphtheria were another story. We had those vaccines, and I'd still recommend that people do. But even though measles is a bore, the CFIDS some of my generation got from MMR vaccines was much more of a bore than measles had been. If your medical profile is like mine you might be better off having measles, mumps, and rubella than having the vaccine.

    I worry sometimes that efforts to make vaccines against minor diseases mandatory is causing people to commit themselves to an anti-vax position that may keep them from protecting their children against the deadly ones. You do NOT want to have to do home surgery to keep a child with diphtheria from choking to death.

    1. Oh, but Priscilla, none of these are "minor diseases" at all! Plus, what may be a mild case for one, may have serious complications to another, including disabilities or death, as well as affecting a fetus. Of course, if one has medical reasons to forgo immunizations, that's a different matter. With half a million measles' deaths annually worldwide, I would have to disagree that having it is better than the vaccine. It is more serious than a "bore," nearly 50,000 Americans hospitalized in 2019.


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