Two Poems by Sandra Kohler


This morning I am mourning my mother
again, anew, mourning her as I did not,
could not, didn’t know how when she died,
when her death was given to me as fact
to accept and ignore, not as feeling, not
as anything to mourn. In the car coming
from the cemetery I wept, and thought as
I did what all the passersby thought of
the sobbing child, how they imagined
the cause of her crying. I stood outside
that child, that weeping, those tears, I
watched it as I might a scene in a play
whose meaning I needed to discern and
could not. I could not. I could not learn
from my own tears, could not get inside
my own mind, could not feel that what
was happening to me was real. No one
told me that it was, no one named my
motherlessness, no one answered my
unspoken questioning of what was
happening, of how my life was being
changed. No one saw me. Who needs
forgiveness: that child who did not
mourn, those adults who did not show
her she needed to do so? All of us.
Along with the mother who made it
all happen by leaving, by dying.


This is Not a Bandage

When our granddaughter sees the helmet of bandages
her grandfather sports after his fall, hospitalization,
return home, fainting spell, rehospitalization, release,
beginning recovery, she asks to sign it, and inscribes

the white swaths in black ink: “This is a bonnet not
a bandage.” Our six-year old Magritte, confident
labeller of the real. I was afraid he would die on her
birthday, darken joys to come. She tells me she dreamt

she found herself outdoors, in a field of blossoming
clover, folding huge bolts of cloth with a group
of Amish women, who were kind to her but spoke
a language she could not understand. I walk through

my house these days choosing what to give away. I
clear it out, pare it down: a bandage, a helmet, a pipe.


Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music, (Word Press) appeared in May, 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing, (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in journals, including The New Republic, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and many others over the past 45 years. In 2018, a poem of hers was chosen to be part of Jenny Holzer’s permanent installation at the new Comcast Technology Center in Philadelphia.