“What happens after death?”
she asked one Sunday, her long, thin body,
stretched weakly across the settee, her cousin,
balancing his dinner plate at her feet.
Sundays they came together – all the family –
for Grandmother’s dinners – the warm waft
of fresh-baked pies, the clank of dishes,
and voices raised over the old farm table.
He shrugged, knowing it was an ongoing
concern – she’d been frail from birth,
this girl he loved – two years younger,
but in every way his peer – said nothing.
“Let’s make a pact,” she blurted with sudden
fervour. “The first to die will leave a sign.”
“Grandpa’s bells!” They shook on it, and
then with a satisfied grin, she fell asleep.
A more sombre clan gathered mid-week,
eyes red and faces pale with the shock
of loss – no smells of warmth to greet them,
just cold platters prepared by church ladies.
Slumped bodies, heads leaning close,
sipped tea on the place where she’d lain,
that last day – no sound of children’s
laughter, just a hole too hard to bear.
And when the sound came, metal
clanging on metal ringing a joyous
clamour, she was the first to see –
Grandpa’s bells stirring – her sign!
She knew then that he’d be waiting –
told me so before that last breath,
and as I watched her go, I swear
I could hear the far off ringing of bells.
(Bjorn is hosting at dVerse tonight and challenges to write narrative poetry. This story of the pact was told to me by my cousin Caroline before she died. The bells were not as pictured here, but were sleigh bells her Grandfather kept hanging inside the back door.)