Unknown Kin(d)

Anne Rundle




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.