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.
“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.