Friday, 14 May 2021

How to explain death to a three-year-old

by Carolyn Martin

Hold the stethoscope to her ears.
Hear your brother’s baby heart?

When she nods an unsuspecting nod,
brush a kiss across her auburn hair.

Guide her hand to his chest. Feel the up
and down? She’ll learn the feeling fast.

Keep it physical: a ritual of sound,
of rise and fall. Do not talk of afterlife,

a better place, the angels who will fly
him home. Stay practical. Chart his life

in months and days. Enshrine his photos
on the walls. Ensure she won’t forget.

Then, when he dies in your bed
before the firs release the summer sun,

send your husband to invite her in.
She won’t need words to understand.

The stethoscope is mute.
Her hand will rest on still-warm skin.

* * * * *

"How to explain death to a three-year-old" was previously published in Verseweavers and is part of Carolyn Martin's poetry collection The Way a Woman Knows.

From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin is a lover of gardening and snorkeling, feral cats and backyard birds, writing and photography. Her poems have appeared in more than 125 journals and anthologies throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. Her fifth collection, The Catalog of Small Contentments will be released in 2021. Currently, she is the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation.

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Memories in Mother’s Bed

by Pat LaPointe

It’s nearly midnight. You are exhausted and hopeful sleep will come soon. You crawl into your mother’s bed where you have slept for several weeks. The sound of your father’s rhythmic snoring in the next room reminds you of your childhood. It evokes a peaceful feeling, knowing he’s OK.

As you begin to rest your head on the pillow, memories of the events of the past weeks flood your mind. Sleep will not come easily.

The phone call that changed your life nearly a month ago:

“Mom’s hurt. She’s in the hospital.”

The diagnosis: A fall, her head slamming into a dresser, caused bleeding on the brain. No telling how long it will take for the bleeding to stop.

Someone will have to stay with your Dad. His dementia is too severe to have him live alone. The siblings can’t/won’t stay with him. It was left up to you to take over.

Your days were filled with caring for him and as well as being at your mother’s side in the hospital.

You gave him his insulin. Made breakfast. Called a neighbor to stay with him. Raced to the hospital. Asked how Mom was doing. Very little progress each day.

Your mother could not eat. She had a feeding tube. She could not breathe on her own. A machine breathed for her. She could not/would not speak.

Then a surgery to ease the bleeding. Was only successful for a few days.

Then you glanced at your Mother as one side of her body began shaking hard enough to loosen some of the tubes and wires which kept her alive. You screamed for the nurses. Your Mother had a stroke.

A week passed. Another surgery. They removed part of her skull. You saw an indentation in the bandages wrapped around her head.

The bleeding lessened for the first time in several weeks. There was talk about what she would need when she left the hospital, maybe in a month or so.

You hoped Mom could hear when you told her the good news.

For the first time you felt so relaxed that you began to nod off in the chair next to your mother’s bed.

Almost immediately, loud, repetitive sounds were coming from the monitors. When her heart rate increased, her blood pressure dangerously decreased. Nurses came and demanded: “Go to the family room. The doctor will meet you there.”

You waited and waited.

You began to curse the damn clock with its loud ticking. It reminded you of every minute you were away from your mother’s side.

The doctor arrived. We’ve done all we can. We have tried for at least 30 minutes to get her to breathe on her own. It is likely she will have some brain damage and be on a ventilator for the rest of her life. It is up to you, you must decide. We can work on her a while longer until we get her set up with a respirator OR....It’s up to you.”

“Please keep working on her just until I get back to her room.” And for a few seconds you asked yourself “Am I killing my Mother?”

You reached your mother’s room and the doctors and nurses quickly left. The lines on the heart monitor read out were flattening. You told your mother you love her just as the monitor quit spiking and the lines went flat.

Now, three days later you again try to sleep, but remember that the funeral home needs some of mom’s IDs. You reach for your mom’s purse and begin to riffle through it. You laugh as a notebook and miniature dictionary fall out followed by no less than three rain bonnets all of which were essentials in your mom’s purse. Your mother had been overprotective of her weekly hair styling, often wearing two bonnets when it began to drizzle.

Suddenly you become very sleepy, return the items to the purse and drop it on the floor, a few feet from the bed.

You are just nestling down under the covers when you hear a crinkling noise. You turn on the light and see one of the bonnets lying alone on the floor, just inches from the bed.

You begin to laugh loudly. “OK, Mom, I got your message. But even if it rains, I’m not using those bonnets.” You place the single bonnet under your pillow.

The next morning all the visitors at the funeral home have one last chance to say goodbye to your mom before they leave for church. You are last in line and take the other two bonnets from your purse and place them in the casket.

“You never know, Mom, it might rain.”

* * * * *

Pat LaPointe, editor of Changes in Life, a monthly online women’s newsletter, is contributing editor of the anthology, The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys from Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment. In addition, she conducts writing workshops for women — both online and onsite. Pat’s essays and short stories have been published widely. Currently, Pat is completing her first novel, forthcoming late 2021.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Finding a Photograph of an Execution in Time Magazine

by Gail Davern

Here in the jungle, after a rainfall,
the colors so vivid from trees and birds
that this little grove where the army
has chosen to stop is illuminated.
A photographer hiding, zeroes in from
200 feet on the one small prisoner
digging a hole with bare brown hands,
in brown pants and brown shirt.
When he’s finished, he lies down and crosses his arms.
Climbing in on top of him, the chosen soldier
plunges a knife into the prisoner’s throat.
A gun shot would bring the enemy.
After the first cut, another is inflicted
into the jugular then the abdomen.
With blood gushing into his coarse black hair,
the earth is kicked over him and the jungle
is put straight before the next rain washes away
the sins of the trespassers and before the film
is put in the mail to New York. The photo
appears in Time magazine as a write-up on execution.
The prisoner’s right leg rose a little off the ground.

* * * * *

Gail Davern was born in London, England. She emigrated to the U.S. where she completed her university undergraduate and graduate degrees. Her work has appeared in Aileron, Alura, CQ, Crosscurrents, and the Salal Review, among other literary magazines. She was recently name finalist for the International Literary Awards: Rita Dove Award, and her chapbook, From the Island at the End of Winter was published by Finishing Line Press. She teaches at Skagit Valley College in Washington state and lives on Whidbey Island.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Piano Lessons

by Gail Davern

They lasted until ten at night,
the continual counting
and striking of wrong notes.
My life at home was
a musical parade of students
my mother taught while I was
in the back of the house
doing homework and
preparing dinner, so she
wouldn’t have to leave her
chair by the piano.
“No, no. Play it again.”
I would cringe to hear,
wanting the right note to be struck.
Twilight ended and the lamp
would be turned on to cast
a honey glow over the keys.
When the student left,
there was a brief silence
until the next student came.
I fantasized that the silence
could go on forever and my mother,
after a long day of work, could rest,
but Brahms interrupted and the
music lulled me to sleep.

* * * * *

Gail Davern was born in London, England. She emigrated to the U.S. where she completed her university undergraduate and graduate degrees. Her work has appeared in Aileron, Alura, CQ, Crosscurrents, and the Salal Review, among other literary magazines. She was recently name finalist for the International Literary Awards: Rita Dove Award, and her chapbook, From the Island at the End of Winter was published by Finishing Line Press. She teaches at Skagit Valley College in Washington state and lives on Whidbey Island.

Monday, 10 May 2021

Memory of Mom 

by Lisa Reynolds

I'm sitting here, drinking coffee. 

Mom's cup is on the kitchen table beside me; her instant Maxwell House Coffee on the counter.

She loved that brand; black with two heaping scoops of sugar. 

Every morning, I would make her a cup the moment I heard her moving around.

She'd come down just as it started to cool, tell me it was perfect, then sit on an ottoman in front of the patio door and watch the birds. 

The Doves stay throughout the winter. The little Jerichos too, dashing about.

Mom would point and say, "They're at it again" and I'd look over and see black and white feathers on bare branches.

And today...

I'm sitting here, waiting to hear her but the only sound is the hum of the furnace as heat rises through the vents.

No Mom. Just me.

Feeling very sad.

* * * * *

Lisa Reynolds is a Canadian writer of poetry and short stories, living in a small community east of Toronto, Ontario. Her works are published in print and online.

"Memory of Mom" is a reflective poem written about her mom, Joan who passed away on February 21, 2021. 

Sunday, 9 May 2021

A Sonata For My Mother

by Dulce Maria Menendez

Because her mother died when she was five.
Because a child should not lose her mother at the age of five.
Because the nuns dressed her as baby Jesus.
Because she wasn't educated past the age of 13.
Because she had to stop going to school to work for her aunt's who beat her and made her wear shoes which were a size too small.
Because she had to give up ballet.
Because she was a lion with green cat yes and her tresses swept past her round
face in the breezes of Havana.
Because she met my father at a bus stop.
Because someone forgot to tell her he was psychofrenic.
Because she was happy for three months before she found out.
Because she left Cuba for US(A).
Because she held my hand as we walked the streets in Miami.
Because she stopped driving after almost killing us in an automobile accident shortly after arriving in Miami.
Because she almost broke her back hunched over a sewing machine.
Because she waited for my father to come home.
Because she waited for my father to come home again.
Because she waited for my father never to return.
Because she left my father.
Because she left my father again.
Because she returned to my father.
Because she loved my father more than me and my sister.
Because she called me hija.
Because she lost her mind.
Because she regained it after my father's death.
Because she wrote poems. 
Because she listened to Rubinstein play Chopin over and over again.
Because she never said a bad word.
Because my sister was her treasure.
Because I was a daddy's girl.
Because she was a work of art.
Because her name was Salome and she carried the beheading of all eternity upon her elegant shoulders as she turned her head to see you as if for the first time.

And why does my mother listen to Chopin?
And why does the sonata bring her comfort?
And why is the sky blue? I asked her once.
Any why did she play Chopin to offer me an answer?
And why does my father leave us again and again? I asked her.
And why am I incarcerated in my own home so far away during this pandemic without my mother?
The sonata plays.
The phone rings.
It is someone from long ago who remembers my mother.
And why does my mother die on the day of the innocents?
Does Chopin have the answer?
I don't know other than at death as in the sonata
we play alone.


For Maria Salome Menendez Planes born October 22, 1932 and died April 1, 2020.

* * * * *

Dulce Maria Menendez publishes artists and poets.

Saturday, 8 May 2021


About this already

by Lorelei Bacht

You trip me, watch me fall 
Down the stairs, rumble tumble 
Of broken limbs and hair,
Knocked head, you blame 
Me for making such a fuss. 

You entertain other women,
Old bathwater, everyone gets 
A turn, I ask about the hair,
The smell of another, you say: 
Stop being so fussy.

You take scissors to the fabric
Of our relationship, our family,
The very fabric of reality,
Every morning is the morning
After, you say we've talked 

About this already.

* * * * *

"About this already" was first published in OpenDoor Magazine:

Lorelei Bacht is a European poet living in Asia with her family. Her recent poems have appeared and/or are forthcoming in OpenDoor Magazine, Litehouse, Visitant, Quail Bell, Wrongdoing, and SWWIM. She can be found on Instagram: @the.cheated.wife.writes and @lorelei.bacht.writer