by Sylvia Baedorf Kassis
you leave your black rubber clogs on the porch
a small pile of scrubs in the front hall
and hurry upstairs to shower
before the children can hug you
It’s been a year of us being at home
and you back and forth to the hospital
where only a select few can be
a large button with a picture of your smiling face
the only way to know what you actually look like
But yours are not the patients you ever really converse with anyway
such is the nature of the medicine you practice
instead you learn the bits and pieces that make up a life from family members
The devastated wife
the children steeling themselves
the feuding siblings
or in one case
on Father's Day no less
the man with grave regrets about his relationship with his now dead son
During the bad weeks
when there's a surge in cases
or for some reason more than the anticipated allotment of patients are dying
you don't say much about what you're feeling
but I am certain you are carrying a part of them back to us
I can't help but imagine the soul released
the body electric suddenly in stillness and
the lingering wisp of whatever energy remains after death
attaching itself to you
like swirling gray smoke emanating
from the ash of the end of days
tendrils wrapped around you
A spirit on the stairs
another in the rocking chair
two in the guest bedroom
when I catch a glimpse
of a shadowy new figure
out of the corner of my eye
There is a place for you here
Our home is yours now too.
Spirit Birds of the Pandemic
by Sylvia Baedorf Kassis
Wild storms have blown through
And in their wake
Each has left a dead bird
Like an empty offer
In front of my blue house.
I am not superstitious
Or else I might wonder
What additional grey-tinged tragedy their arrivals forecast.
First it was a tiny starling
All acute angles and pink skin
Tossed from its spring nest
Drowned in the gutter
And spit out in the dirt
With the downpipe’s rush of rain water.
We buried the broken body under our purple azalea bush
And my six-year-old fashioned a grave marker
Out of shells and stones.
Just a few weeks later
A brown-headed cowbird
Stiff with death from an indeterminate cause
Was discovered lying in front of our porch
As though it was sleeping.
Will it be OK?
Asked my yellow-haired preschooler
Squatting on the sidewalk
Peering closely at the lifeless creature.
My colorless response met with indignance
I know, mom. But will it be OK?
I considered the question more carefully
And tried again
I suppose, yes; it will.
The boys took turns carrying a small shovel
The boxed bird surprisingly weightless in my hands
As we ventured from our hillside home
In search of the mysterious vernal pool
Hidden in a thicket of ancient redwoods
For a burial service amongst the songs and calls of brethren.
Sylvia Baedorf Kassis, MPH, is a research professional from Toronto, now living in Boston. Her work has appeared in Literary Mama and Jane Austen's Wastebasket, and is forthcoming in The Syndrome Mag.
Photos by Iannis Delatolas and Pexels