Two Poems by Sandra Kohler

Fall

In a nightmare my husband has converted
to a sect of fundamentalist Christianity and
is insisting I must do so also, otherwise I am
not “in the eyes of God.” It’s fall. The leaves
are falling. In the same dream, my husband’s
walking the dog and I am afraid he will fall.
Volatile fall. I am watching him too closely
and not closely enough. He should be back.
Have I missed the sound of his mother’s
clock striking? What do I miss? Safety.
Something I never had. I can’t imagine
wanting to be in the eyes of God. I want
to be in my husband’s eyes, in his good
graces, in his bed. He’s not at home. He
fell ill, is in the hospital, the ICU, I dream
of watching over him as I can’t these nights.
Waking, seeing my nightmare is dream,
my spirits rise. But he’s absent. It’s
autumn. My spirits fall with the leaves.

*

Seven Years

“It tires her to see the curve of heaven”
Aeneid, Book IV

Why does this line make me think about
my sister? On the seventh anniversary of
her death, I wake thinking of her once more,
of my connections with, my alienation from
her, my anger, my grief, my inability to let
either of them go, let her go, let myself be.

She was seven years older than I, when she
died she was the age I am today, if I died
today, I would be one with her. Just days
ago I found the grey sweater she knitted,
the only garment she ever made that fit me,
that I enjoyed wearing, and find myself

wanting to throw it away, be rid of it. How
to be rid of her? I can’t. If I forgave her,
would I be free? Perhaps I could. Forgive
her for being who she was, for failing me
both when I was a child after mother’s
death, and later, in our adult lives. Yet

I think I’m the one who needs to be
forgiven, for not visiting her in her last
years, the lost years at the end of her life.
Must I forgive her to forgive myself? Is
thinking of forgiving her doing so?
Repeating, retracting, reenacting this
past, present, I am as weary as Dido.

*

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, 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.

A Catholic’s Guide to Avoid Going to Hell by Valerie Frost

A Catholic’s Guide to Avoid Going to Hell

Use your manners,
even if the other person doesn’t deserve it.

Smile, a lot, sometimes painfully.
Grit your teeth if you must to really sell it.

Be a generally good person, by society’s standards-
whatever society you happen to be a part of.

Don’t be the person who breaks a pay-it-forward chain
in the Starbucks drive-thru line.

Keep most of your thoughts to yourself,
(people don’t usually take kindly to them).

Always bless people when they sneeze.

Tell white lies to protect other people’s feelings.
But also never lie, it’s wrong.

Maintain impeccable customer service,
no matter how awful the customer is.
It’s your fault, anyway.

Treat all animals better than humans.
Animals are the closest thing to God
(besides the Pope, of course).

Give your money away-
no matter how hard you work for it.
You don’t deserve it.

*

Valerie Frost is a Garden State native. She lives in Central Kentucky with her twin three-year-olds. Her poems have appeared in the Eastern Iowa Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Thimble Literary Magazine, and elsewhere.

Radiance by Laura Foley

Radiance

I remember when I stopped
not believing in God, it sent me
to my knees pleading,
hands clasped like a penitent
or a medieval saint transported
to the modern age,
struck by my mother’s stroke.
A Litany flowed through me,
of faintly remembered prayers,
growing as I spoke,
my knees impervious to the hard tile,
cramped between sink and bath.
Yet, when I opened the door,
I feigned no inner change,
knew my husband’s unknowingness
would try to eclipse my newfound light,
turn brilliance to a dull watered gray
with his scoffing gaze, the planet
of his non-belief
blocking me from radiating.
I didn’t wish to rejoin him in the cave
where I once found comfort,
watching shadows dance.
It was the start
of the end of us, the beginning
of my brighter epoch.

 

 

Laura Foley is the author of seven poetry collections. Why I Never Finished My Dissertation received a starred Kirkus Review, was among their top poetry books of 2019, and won an Eric Hoffer Award. Her collection It’s This is forthcoming from Salmon Press in 2021. Her poems have won numerous awards, and national recognition—read frequently by Garrison Keillor on The Writers Almanac; appearing in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. Laura lives with her wife, Clara Gimenez, among the hills of Vermont. www.laurafoley.net