“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)