At the Hour of Your Death
a chaplain appeared and it was as if
my father, that constant joker,
had waylaid the elegant white-haired
minister we’d envisioned
and herded in a tiny Filipino nun
for our amusement and to lift your despair
over having just died in a hospital’s
generic white gown
with your hair uncombed.
The nun spoke an earnest language,
not quite English, not Roman Catholic,
but full of breathy spaces
where the Holy’s would have gone
if we hadn’t mandated Presbyterian.
We were mesmerized by her quick
index finger, eager to make a sign,
repeatedly reaching out, jerking back,
over your breathless sternum—
Mother Mary so unspoken
she was everywhere.
I could see my father’s fine
Irish hand in this, his knack
for making you and your mirror image
break into laughter
when humidity had panicked your hair
or your hemline had forgotten
to contradict the stock market,
how he would hold out his arm, and
filling the mirrors with emptiness,
sweep you off
into the deep and starry night.
Karen Stromberg favors flash fiction, the ten-minute play and short poetry. She does not accept the boundary between life and death.