The Last Train (Sonnet)

We wait at the station, Mother and I,
one final stop for her – painless she prays;
I busied at bedside – prolonged goodbye –
memories and regrets filling our days.

“We live too long,” she wearily proclaims
“Why must suffering linger till the end?”
I plea and bargain, call angelic names,
yet the will to survive refuses to bend.

The urgency builds as my time dwindles;
must I leave her in this compromised state?
She rallies and stands on wobbly spindles
dismisses fears – has accepted her fate.

Some destinations are clearly defined –
Death is a train whose schedule’s unkind.

(The Last Train first appeared January 2019. Image my own)

Irreversible

Who can measure
the cost of war?

How deep destruction
scars the human soul?

I see the trench lines
carved on fathers’ faces

the ghostly pallor
of mothers’ fear –

only the children sing
unaware, bending to fate

with graciousness;
grief’s shrapnel well buried

(Image my own. Tuesdays I borrow from Twitter @Vjknutson)

The Pact

“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,
voices raised over old farm table.

He shrugged; it was always a 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
“The first to die will leave a sign.”
“Grandpa’s bells!” They shook on it
and then, with a satisfied grin
she succumbed to sleep.

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 gathering – no sound of children’s
laughter, the 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 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.

(The Pact was originally published September, 2018. Edited here. Image my own)

Next Door

Next door cultivates perfection –
gardens pert with flowery blooms
like vibrant little soldiers heeding
the command of love’s labour,
shimmering with prideful confidence

My garden is overgrown vines,
chaos’ shameful exhibition,
bemoans the futility of planting,
knows there will be no follow through,
betrays the absence of love’s toil.

Life has schooled detachment
lessons in loss counsel defensiveness –
better to guard hope than plant it…

How can next door be so reckless;
do they not know this all for naught?

(This a rewrite of former poem also titled Next Door. Image my own.)