by Caroline Johnson


Seeing mother as Raggedy Ann
in hospice clothes
shakes me up, rattles my bones.

Her coal black button eyes,
her faded red yarn hair,
her arms pale and wrinkled,
her gingham smile, now broken,

once connected people like bridges
over the Danube of Budapest.

I bend down to pick up a bleached log.
A halo of light pours on me,
spreading like a river of swans.


When the conference of birds sing their song,
I know she’s made her peace and gone.

A lone southern belle who conjured friends
like fireflies, releasing them into the air,
she is now just a disheveled doll sailing
towards infinity and the atmosphere.

I dive into the oily water and swim,
but she has disappeared, a peasant
lost in a paprika field.


The swans have flown away, leaving only
a few white feathers on the river’s surface.
The wind of her soul seeps through holes
in my log, creating a constant song.

Previously published in The Caregiver (Holy Cow! Press, 2018)

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