Your bones hadn’t yet chosen a gender
so I can name you Daisy or Stella or Ralph.
If you’d survived I’d have
another box or circle (to type letters inside)
on our family tree instead of this question mark.
Disposed of instead of buried,
a miscarriage leaves only questions
in its wake.
Family secrets kept in a cardboard box:
three near-empty bottles of whiskey.
Such a forked path gives two choices:
a swig pours heat down one’s throat
or trickles down the sink
followed by admitting imperfection
accept the things… courage to change… wisdom
that this addiction feels necessary, like breathing air.
Stride one day at a time
to detox and sobriety and meetings,
or walk the other way
with a liver hardening
into a stiff grey
scare tactic on Dr. Oz.
Actually, these weren’t secrets.
Everyone knew how it played out.
One man died young in my life,
a candle flicker during a blackout,
and the other lived to see
my older brother’s high school graduation.
I come to sit in the chapel
while an organist practices her scales,
teaches a piano lesson, & I hum wordless songs
full of chords and pedals and echoes.
You call from the beyond.
Here, I let my ghosts find me.
It’s my routine. The days
may feel as if I’m at a factory assembling pens,
as if I don’t have to think, only follow
the same steps for years on end.
Here I can hear my thoughts in the music,
look outside, see traffic lights change yellow
into red and ambulance sirens screeching.
The family ghosts I miss the most
are absent, long established
in heaven and no longer in It’s a Wonderful Life
transitions. They are angels who guard me,
with a hands-off role.
I see eyes that twinkle,
dimpled smiles & a cackle that
sounds like a witch, but is simply
her sound of bliss.
The ghosts stay on the sidelines, a
cheerleading squad I can feel
by the color of the skies.
Sunrise, sunset and
sunbeams peeking out after a storm
are when they paint
small messages from the other side.
When the snow falls, I see
their gift in the differences of
snow in one single day: sleet,
hail, wet snow, slow fluffy snow,
and I am reminded Inuits
have multiple words for snow.
A man on the radio
states cemetery comes from
the Latin for temporary resting
place, as dormitory means a
place we sleep. When I see tombstones,
I consider if the ending dates were removed,
if these boxes weren’t decomposing
underground, or in my family’s
case, boxes of ashes buried
under grass left damp by snow
shaded by an oak tree, and
dandelions always reappearing near
the edges of their gravestones.
If those years etched in stone
could be uncarved
these relatives could still
answer my phone calls.
Now, they only answer
telepathically and only
vanish when I need them
most, knowing I must walk
alone, knowing I miss their syrup and
pancakes, letters in the mailbox and replenishing
all the backyard’s birdhouses to sit in wait.
Two cardinals always visit my
parents’ yard, and a host
of robins sing in my yard.
The snow melts, and
their gravestones warm under the sun.
Anne Rundle’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Artful Dodge and Common Threads. She has a Master of Fine Arts from Ashland University. She taught high school English for seven years, but now works for a local community college. Her poem “Now the Teacher Becomes the Student” won the 2017 Ides of March contest. Anne resides in Westerville, Ohio.