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Five Poems, by Rosalie Morales Kearns

 

When That Final Trumpet

When that final trumpet sounds
(and when was the first one?),
when it’s time to cross that bridge
into something you can’t quite see from here,
stretch and strain as you might,
will you at least try to be dignified,
or will you cackle at some private joke
and spoil the mood?

It’s a knife-edge, that final-moment scenario.
Lament the books you didn’t read,
or celebrate the perfect mocha brownies
you ate along the way?

Maybe you’ll be distracted by
the visitors, who elbow each other
to get near the bedside.
Or for the first time you’ll appreciate the blood
flowing in your veins, your ability to bend
your big toe, because how many more
opportunities will there be, unless
we have toes in the afterlife, or
reincarnate into something with toes
instead of, say, a lily
or a butterfly?

But then you’ll feel annoyed at yourself
for such trivial thoughts at a momentous time.
It was ever thus.

And as the monitor emits that long, mournful beep
and you feel yourself swinging up and out, and
you’re light as an eyelash,
no time, no time, say goodbye
and laugh.

 

A Yea or a Nay Is No Answer to Why

The books you wrote
arrive at the wake,
official mourners.
“It was time,” they murmur.
“We were ready.”

Did you regret those long hours at the desk,
like Casaubon, searching for the key
to explain all religions,
unlock the riddle of patriarchy?

But all you ever did was un-explain.

When asked for your finest moments,
your niece recalls how the two of you
took turns reading Alice in Wonderland aloud
and roared with laughter,
how you baked cookies together,
addressing an imaginary TV audience
in faux English accents.

But now your ghost has hoisted itself up,
stands wobbling on the rim of the casket.
You natter on about climbing a steep mountain path
red-faced and wheezing, heart heaving.
No one there to see your accomplishment,
but you looked down through hemlocks
at the rushing stream below.
“Swift Run, it was called,” you mumble.

The guests at the wake,
embarrassed on your behalf,
talk among themselves:

“The undertaker did a nice job.”
“Doesn’t look too bad for an old crone.”
“She never could get to the point.”

 

 

Quiz for the Afterlife

It’s halfway down the questionnaire
they give you at the Pearly Gates:
“Explain your faith, or lack thereof.”
I take a pen and try to draw,
but lack of skill yields mere cartoons.

In panel one, a church pew holds
a stick-limbed girl, who puts new words
to every hymn as friends nearby
try not to laugh: “When will this all
be o-oh-ver, I’m so bor-ored.”

Here’s panel two. She grits her teeth
as words balloon from mouths of nuns
in tarnished haloes: “Think like us
or go to hell.” It wounds her soul.
She wants no heaven without her Dad.

The third scene shows our heroine
imagining how God must feel.
With eyes closed now, she concentrates.
The church dissolves, she floats above,
does cartwheels in the stars.

 

Black Forest

In that black forest,
we’re strafed by
silence.
Sunlight on
forest floor
a death knell
to those for whom
shadow means safety.
We huddle against
the earth,
the leaf detritus
of generations
embraces us,
says, “You are home.”

The thrush trills
that evening is near.
Bats swoop down in a
froth of beating wings.
Night, and brilliant stars
through the branches
catch in our throats,
like songs we want to sing
but have forgotten.

 

The Dark, the Light

It’s a mystery, what the crystal
knows, what the runes
reveal. Words
conceal it.

Cards, tea leaves, planchette:
stasis after a whirlwind.
Ballast. And when
the dream sword
is drawn,
we rise.

 

Note: These poems are part of Big Other’s Puerto Rican Writer’s Folio: A Hauntology

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Rosalie Morales Kearns, a writer of Puerto Rican and Pennsylvania Dutch descent, is the author of Kingdom of Women and Virgins and Tricksters. Editor of The Female Complaint: Tales of Unruly Women, founder of Shade Mountain Press, she has work published in Big Other, Entropy, Yes Poetry, Witness, and other journals.

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