-Mary Peery Whittaker
1877 - 1961
Mary Peery Whittaker was named Mary Thornton Peery at her birth on 3 May 1877. She was born to Rev. John Thompson Peery (1817-1890) who was a founder of the Old Mission Methodist Church and Susan Catherine Thornton (1849-1920 known as "Kate") in Alvarado, Texas. By the 1880 census, the Peerys were living in Miami, Missouri and a younger brother John had joined the family, but that is the extent of what I've been able to find of Mary's childhood, so far.
Mary Peery Whittaker
On 28 December 1911, Mary married Marion Orlando Whittaker (1876-1965), a carpenter by trade. The couple resided at several addresses in Kansas City, ending up at 4433 Roanoke Pkwy in Kansas City where they would live until her death. The Whittakers had three children; Helen in 1912 and twins Gordon and Virginia in 1916. Despite her busy family, Mary found time for civic and cultural pursuits. She was active in the historical society and was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Mary was also a member of the Kansas City Quill Club (presumably a writer's club), as well as the National League of American Pen Women. There are hints in some of Mary's poems that she may have been a high school teacher, but that is just a guess.
Mary Peery Whittaker's book of poetry entitled Lilac Lane was privately published in 1957 when she was an old woman of 80 years. Sixteen periodicals are listed on the acknowledgements page, so she was evidently successful in having her lovely poems published. She died at the age of 84 on 18 May, 1961. My copy of her book is signed by Mary in a very shaky hand.
**Many thanks to LaDon Brennan for the information and the photo which can be found at findagrave.com, memorial #71203947
by Mary Peery Whittaker
Beyond My Knowing
A Night in June
I launch my lyrics on a sea
Where mammoth ships are crossing—
Eclipsed and frail the craft may be,
When Titan waves are tossing.
Not for the watchers on the shore,
This boat braves Neptune-thunder;
But far out where storm-voices roar,
Someone my watch and wonder.
Perhaps a mariner may hear
A cadenced tone, uplifting.
One hit of hope can banish fear
Where lilts of song are drifting.
My barque roams on through fog and mist;
But winds of chance are blowing—
Faith parts the veil of amethyst
In ports beyond my knowing.
He met her there one witching hour,
When honeysuckles, creamy white,
From trellised vine and latticed bower,
Dipped dewy fingers in the night...
When fragrance stirred on elfin wings,
And locust boughs half-hid the moon...
One line, alone, tells all hese things:
A man... a maid... a night in June.
What is this primal urge to mount on wings,
When wild geese drift across the sky in flight;
Is my heart not in tune with migrant things—
Arrows of trackless void that pass from sight,
As falling stars fade in the dome of night?
Am I in truth earth-bound, when thought may tower
And soar where speeding mist-veiled wings invite;
Do I not share, with them, some kindred power—
A capability beyond the passing hour?
So silent was the gloaming hour—
The whispering leaves were still;
One star pinned twilight's trailing robe...
I heard the whippoorwill.
There is no song that I shall ever sing
That does not echo notes voiced long before;
The thoughts that seem my own are muse-thumbed lore
In fresher phrasing. There is no new thing;
And yet my unpretentious lyre may ring
With tones not stressed by wandering troubadour
Or classic bard whose fancy loved to soar
To vaulted rainbow realms on rhythmic wing.
What though I weave a tapestry of dreams
From warp to woof perhaps time-touched and old;
Could I but add that one elusive thread
That brings out living beauty, hidden gleams—
A subtle tracery with glints of gold...
The fabric would be mine when all was said.
The First Dandelion
Old massive watch with battered silver case,
You ticked long hours when George the Third was king;
The faded figures on your antique face
Keep tryst with epoch years, remembering
A tall Colonial lad, a flag unfurled.
(He loved that waving banner— stripe and star.)
You shared his forest camp where wood-smoke curled;
He paid the price of freedom in that war.
The rhythm of your life-song ceased at last;
Your one lone hand is clinging to an hour.
And from the hush of decades long since past,
You grasp to call it back with futile power.
Old silent watch, when Time bids me adieu,
May I keep one transcendent moment, too.
He came with dandelion gold
Clasped in his chubby hand,
His face aglow with pride, untold—
But mothers understand—
He brought the bloom for me to share,
And skipped about in glee...
No orchid bloom could seem so fair,
As what he gave to me.
When loneliness is muted sound
Too low for mortal ear...
When acorn-hush is all around,
Dusk leans to listen near.
Night chants a threnody of rain
That lasts the long hours through.
I shall not walk these paths again...
October gone— and you.
Green cedar boughs festooned a rafter
And corn-shuck dolls evoked delight.
In candle-glow their lilts of laughter
Made overture one Christmas night.
Across far years an echo lingers—
Children respond to holy things;
They fondled Yule gifts with small fingers
And scanned the sky for angel wings.
One Yellow Leaf
October's crooning winds
Are reminiscent things
And Autumn's heart-throb is
The beat of migrant wings;
But to one yellow leaf...
the whole of Autumn clings.
Beyond Mortal Ear
A violin, in its deep heart,
Knows melodies unstirred—
Perhaps a sparrow's humble chirp
Holds lilts no ear has heard.
Our ambient silence is replete
With song, were we aware,
And if its home is in our heart
We sense it everywhere.
Oh beauty, deeply etched past all forgetting,
Shall years with ruthless touch strive to erase
Life's haloed dreams in all their gilded setting
And leave the picture blurred? Can time efface
The last lavender of summer twilights,
The joy I know at glimpse of soaring wing,
The brooding peace of star-swept prairie nights,
A radiant dawn... and every cherished thing?
Shall I not take it all beyond with me—
This loveliness— where joys are amplified?
Far down the vista of eternity,
Let treasured Memory still with me abide.
Perhaps I shall, on some celestial day,
Recall wild plum blooms and a vanished May.