Aftermath by Katherine Flannery Dering
an selection of poems from the collection published by Finishing Line Press | November 16, 2018
For My Sister, at Nick’s Departure
The cedar tree trembles; the sky
The bird feeder is empty,
and the yard, barren.
A north wind elbows through
bare oaks and hickories,
pushing the limbs
this way and that.
The trees groan in protest.
My heart trembles; my spirit
I am empty and cannot find quiet.
I am shivering; the wind saws
How do I give comfort
if I’m chopped to pieces?
My poor, sweet boy,
my sister mutters,
balled in her hand.
She’s an Inuit carving,
smooth and compact,
her back a soft curve.
First published in River River, Issue Four / Fall 2016
—for my brother
We are the only ones who ever lived who rode
in the backward facing seat in the way-back of our
gold, behemoth, 1957 Plymouth station wagon under
millions—a universe—of twinkling stars. Alps behind us,
Bologna and Rome ahead, the road in its sixth or seventh
hour of sickening switch-backs, and we’re singing, “For you and
I have a guardian angel,” and I’m crying softly. There’s a breeze.
Dad’s cigarette smoke snakes its way back into the car. Sharp. The three
other kids are quiet, perhaps sleeping. Who else could ever know what these
children know? Even then you and I sensed this could happen only once. Our lives
would now have a before and after. …Imitating Bing Crosby’s croon, “little one, why
do you tarry?” And now our parents are gone, hopefully to a place among those
stars, floating through the light as it streams through the universe. You may see
them through your telescope from your high hill above the long leaf pines.
…Racing up hundreds of steps in Rome and Pisa, what was our hurry?
Did we really eat our first lasagna at a travelers’ rest perched on an
Alpine mountainside? Sweat through a papal audience in a Rococo
palace, and shiver by bones in the catacombs? Perfume and must.
We were always looking for meteorites amidst mica-flecked rock.
Well, the stars are still there. Slow down, little brother.
Feet up, window open. Let’s enjoy the descent.
First published in Shot in the Head, A Sister’s Memoir, a Brother’s Struggle from Bridgeross Communications / March 2014
My cat Brownie was fifteen
when her tortoise-shell coat
lost its lovely sheen.
I think about her on this cold winter’s day,
as I consider our human cross-over rituals:
the denial, the painful procedures,
the no-win decisions.
Brownie lay for days, stretched out
by the wood stove, gasping for breath,
But she purred in my lap
as we drove to the vet’s
where soothing voices, gentle strokes,
and a tiny prick eased her off
to her journey through
the Milky Way.
We humans lose grandparents, then
parents, peers and loved ones,
and still, like snakes, we shed
our skins each spring and slither
off to a sunny rock to bake.
We’re astonished when sharp talons
come from nowhere
and just like that,
we’re off to meet eternity.