by Sandra Kohler
Sonnet for Strangers
When the brother of a new friend dies suddenly,
I listen to her story of what their connection was,
wasn’t, hit oddly hard by this tale of near strangers.
Reverberations of my one brother’s death, echoes
of how distant I feel from my living brother, sister.
If they die before I do, what will I feel? Anger and
pity. Those words come. I let them. At whom, for
what? Anger and pity: are they always twins? My
anger at, pity for my sister, my two brothers, living
and dead, are reluctantly related, siblings bound
and determined not to be bound to each other,
grieving, wanting to be free of the bond of grief,
haunting the waste sad time before and after:
after anger’s disillusion, before pity’s knowledge.
The day is a maze, tunnels and
turnings. Old and without wisdom,
I let what I know be undone by where
I am. The roof leaks, the window frames
are rotten. I write emails, not the letter
I owe, put off till tomorrow what yesterday
couldn't phone in. We can’t decide whether
to worry about the roof or the window or
what’s at the door. Thinking makes nothing
happen. Nothing happens without thinking.
What I needed was the present; what took
me away from it were obligations assumed
accidentally, unthinkingly, turned chains.
Mind-forged manacles, or the body-forged:
sex, death, the past, the future. I am
learning so much and understanding
so little. I am learning so little,
understanding so much.
Sandra Kohler has published three collections poems: Improbable Music (WordPress, 2001), The Ceremonies of Longing (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003), and The Country of Women (Calyx Books, 1995). The Ceremonies of Longing was the winner of the 2002 AWP Award Series in Poetry. Her poems have appeared over the past thirty-five years in journals including APR, the Gettysburg Review, Slant, Prairie Schooner, the New Republic, Tar River Poetry, Beloit Poetry Journal, the Missouri Review, and the Colorado Review.