A Poem for January


Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Todd Lincoln (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mrs. Lincoln  Admitted Today

Bellevue Place Sanitarium, Batavia, Illinois   May, 1875

 We seen it in the paper. She’ll get

here around noontime.

The wife didn’t want to see it so I come alone.

They say the old lady went crazy, maybe been crazy all along.

Say the son, Robert Todd done it. Took her to trial, 

said she’s a danger. Danger

to herself.   

Wonder if that’s all of it.

That’s them now, carriage’s pulling up the path.

She screaming? Ranting? Acting crazy? Nah.

I ought to get out of here, walk on home.

She’s real little. So gray.

Not like the pictures.


It’s a dirty job he’s got, the son Robert Todd

that got her committed.

I suppose he was full of strain and great difficulty,

growing up with Mary as a mother,

Abe riding the circuit and all.

Now her trying suicide, spending wild,

irrational. High one minute,

bottom the next.

Son’s got to do his manly duty,


God damn hard job.

Wonder if that’s all of it.

Probably not all of it.

There’s always more.

Robert Todd must be torn,

deep in the night he’ll beg

relief from all this.

Mary is surely lost and alone.

She’ll pray him the worst

scoundrel of the age.

Both Mary and Robert Todd are

prisoners of this sanitarium,

every day a day of gazing out,

studying imponderable escape.


Some days I pass by there,

that sanitarium.

See Robert Todd’s carriage

once in a while and guess

what window is his mother’s.

Do you suppose Mary and Robert Todd

are visible through the glass?

S’pose you

can see them talking,

slowly but surely, reaching,

little by little setting one another free?

Larry Ambrose


About Chicago Stories

I'm a Chicagoan, have been for fifty years. I've had a consulting business in the city for thirty-eight years, working with many Chicago companies and organizations and others around the world. Before that, I worked the city's race relations agency for five years.I am a volunteer tour guide for Chicago's Greeter Program and introduce visitors from around the world to this beautiful city. I'm also a writer of several professional books as well as poetry, essays and fiction. The city has become my inspiration, education and entertainment. View all posts by Chicago Stories

2 responses to “A Poem for January

  • freed

    best so for…just like Obama

  • Noreen Gorman

    Very nice Larry. I especially loved the last line. Would that all alienated adult children could find a way to heal the relationship with their offending parent.

    Noreen Gorman

    Perrone-Ambrose Associates, Inc.

    800-648-0543 x.661

    Local: 847-714-9508

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