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.

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