In a pavilion surrounded by rice fields,
I strain to understand the Lao of
an old woman with a blood-red wad
of betel nut stuffed in one cheek,
“We’ve struggled for months to make ends meet,”
My thoughts drift to John.
Where? A flat? The ditch?
“My son couldn’t find work.”
Stories that bolster
anxious, waiting wives
rise in my mind.
“He didn’t want to leave his family.”
A cell phone jingle
interrupts the story of God’s goodness,
rare reception in the village.
“But his wife and children depend on him.”
Wian covers her mouth,
trembling, hands me the phone.
“He went to Bangkok without connections.”
I hear a frantic Thai woman.
“Nurse, hospital, accident.”
I push the phone to Pastor Joi.
“God heard our prayer; he found work.”
Pastor Joi wide-eyed,
“He is sending money back; we’ll be okay.”
puts down the phone,
John is dead.
Gap in Time
Black, hollow in a uniform procession of teeth.
Space between the wings of the ark’s cherubim.
Nothing in the midst of something.
A black hole surrounded by bright stars,
swallowing anything that comes close.
I sit in an unseen gap in time.
He’s dead. I don’t know it.
Intuition begins to play tricks.
Dread rises, wadding cotton balls in my throat.
I wrestle it down with more-likely tales,
tales that were truth before. But then
a new reality strikes like an avalanche,
crushing the certainty
to which I yearn to cling.
Glittering stars gulped into the void.
Teeth knocked out in a bitter blow.
Emptiness between the wings of the cherubim,
where God said, “I will be met.”
Alone in the gap,
friends and family sleep on the other side of the world.
No one wants this truth.
The God of the stars and the cherubim is less complicated.
Happy the life lived in unawareness.
But the truth will not stay hidden long;
those close are seized,
sucked into the nothingness.
Who can bear to swim within
the God of the gaps?
Read more about Seasons of Solace: A Story of Healing through Photos and Poems
Return from Seasons of Solace poems to Journey-through-grief homepage