I fear the denouement –
the moment of reckoning
when the winding path
unravels; when intentions,
transient at best, reveal
themselves as common lies
and soul crumples before light
recognizing this is not the end.

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

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)

Talk To Me of Horses

Talk to me of horses
the young man says
thin locks of blonde matted
on a sweaty brow, flashes of blue
that fade as eyes succumb
to weariness, the constant
whoosh, whoosh of respirator.

Talk to me of horses:
the world is losing its grip
and I care not about
the weather or car mechanics,
but I dream of horses
and I am feeling so emotional –
help me understand.

So, I come daily to his bedside
wait for moments of lucidity
ponder the implications
of his questions, wrestle with
my own inadequacies –
I am merely student here.

We discuss horses –
the power of their bodies
their beauty and grace
their role throughout history –
decide they are ferrymen
transporting souls across worlds –
an explanation that satisfies, then…

I am seeing things, he strains
embarrassed even in these final hours
to describe what seems inconceivable,
between sleep and awake, figures
grey and frightening hover over
my bed like body snatchers….

A chill runs over me, as if icy
fingers have caressed my skin
and I shudder despite myself
scramble to maintain calm
wonder aloud if it is not just fear
projecting grey into light
clouding his vision.

I missed his passing the next day
arriving to find his mother waiting
He left you a message,” her eyes
quizzical, “says that you were right
about the visions; there was nothing to fear”

I smile through the grief –
ever the teacher that one
now dead at twenty-one

“Oh, and one more thing”, she adds “
“Could you talk to me of horses?”

(Talk to Me of Horses first appeared her in April 2018. This version has been edited slightly. Image my own.)

When We Meet In Heaven, Dad (2)

I picture it: a convention
of like minds, congregating,
sharing, aspiring to betterment.

A conference of healing,
for the newly deceased –
like limbo, only educational.

Surprised to find you there –
you who seldom attended
any of my performances.

I’ll stifle the discomfort,
suppress doubt, cherish
the moment, except that

I know you – will catch
the gist of your duplicity,
your self-serving motivations

feel the rage intact, intent
on one final confrontation,
to track you down, and decry

your brick-wall tendencies,
the cruelty of absenting
yourself from a child’s needs

will check the registry –
surely there is one in Heaven –
likely not find you listed there

the alias you used in life,
now redundant – will find
you under that moniker

I refused to ever pronounce;
will stand at the door of your chamber
inflated righteousness ready

to denounce you for eternity,
only… revelation will strike,
decades of wrath disintegrating

into sorrow, and as you open
that door, hesitant to receive me,
I’ll declare:  “I am sorry, Dad.

I accept you just as you are,
I just don’t want any more
distance between us.”

(When We Meet in Heaven, Dad originally appeared April, 2017.  I am submitting a revised edition here for Manic Mondays 3 Way Prompt:  dirge.  A response to this poem, from my Father’s point of view, is posted on One Woman’s Quest II.)

When We Meet in Heaven, Dad

I picture it: a convention –
where like minds congregate,
learn from one another,
aspire to betterment

A conference of healing,
dedicated to those newly
passing on, like limbo,
only educational.

Imagine my surprise, then
should you be there, Dad –
you who’ve never before
attended my performances

I’ll attempt to stifle the
discomfort, suppress doubt,
cherish the moment,
but I know you too well

will catch the gist of
your duplicity, easily
recognizing self-serving
motivations, feel the rage –

intact despite the body’s demise –
intent on tracking you down
one final confrontation
to elaborate on the deplorablity

of your manipulative ways,
your brick-wall tactics,
the cruelty of absenting
yourself from a child’s needs

would check the registry –
surely they have a registry
in Heaven – will not find
your name listed there

In an aha moment, think
to find you under an alias –
I’d be right – stand at the door
of your chamber, inflated

righteousness ready to
denounce you for eternity,
feel the strike of bolt-like
revelation, decades of wrath

disintegrating into sorrow,
sudden clarity washing over me,
as you open the door, hesitant
to receive me, I’ll declare:

“Dad, it’s okay – I accept you
just the way you are;  I just
don’t want any more
distance between us!”


A Final Mystery

Is death a gentle reprieve,
a final release of suffering
a promised resting place?

Or is it contemplation
coloured by memories
demanding retribution?

Will death bring reunion
unleash forgiveness
shine with revelation?

Will one final earthly breath
call forth all the fragments of the soul
and restore wholeness?

I have witnessed death –
both embraced and unwanted –
snatch the spirit from its nest

felt the whoosh of escape
and a swirl of celebration,
known the peace that follows

witnessed the body, open-eyed
and open-mouthed
become a vacuum –

discarded membranes;
an impotent shell.

The spirit does not dwell there;
it lives on borrowed time.

Where it goes when all is done
remains life’s poignant mystery.