Survivor’s Guide to Grief, Loss, Bereavement, Life-Imploding Tragedies, and Various Other Kinds of Human Suffering (Abridged)

Eliminate action verbs
Say deceased not dead
Don’t think that you’ll ever remodel the kitchen
Even with the modifications to your diet,
the polar ice caps will melt,
the average surface temperature of the Earth will continue to rise,
and still, that dress will never make you look like a movie star

As the house burns, the stove confesses
its love for the refrigerator
(who would have known?)
For all of those years they stood side by side
To save on tissues,
do your crying in the shower
If your clothes are dirty,
throw them out. Spit
if it’s hard to swallow
If it’s ugly, close your eyes

The human brain is not symmetrical
That’s not a rose, it’s an axe
That’s not music, but how were you to know.
That’s no cemetery, it’s landfill.

Your daughter may be my spouse’s killer
Your diagnosis may be my tax return
When God falls asleep, it’s difficult
for him to hear my prayers
Sometimes even the wind is confused
A few of us can pretend we’re not looking,
or look as if we are not pretending

At some point comes the wisdom
You came for the insight
And stayed for the refreshments
//////////the drumroll
//////////the curtain call
It’s coming, believe me
Let me tell you, it’s coming

 

Who’s with Me

good morning welcome thank you
a pleasure to see you all again
so glad you came oh my
apologies but I have to be
going it seems there’s something
urgent I must do I’m
supposed to find someone
to squeeze my hand to sit
all night at my bedside a person
to drop me at the airport to change
a flat tire yes yes
before it’s too late it’s what
everyone’s thinking just
not saying why cancel the continental
breakfast poison the watercooler piss
in the cubicles please
wait let me give you my card
it’s amazing we’re still here are
paid and then not the minutes days
months can anyone tell
me on what day the Fourth of July holiday falls
for the next twenty years ok who wants coffee I’m not uncomfortable
at all let’s all make time to share who’d
like to start let’s hear it who dislikes
their spouse does anyone regret having children
someone pour me a whisky soda oh
I have one never mind we can
have no drinks our goal is to make
toasts any toast in this soon to be ending
cocktail hour sloshing toward oblivion

 

Little 24

In the end, everything comes apart,
Is separated, all couples undone,
Nothing joined, commingled, twined.
No mass of Day-Glo life vests, no
Rubber rafts, deflated,
hides of some overhunted animal.
In the end, everything’s detached,
Broken, atomized—the last perfume
That makes all others like death,
The scent of the beloved
In a cardboard box of clothes, half-life,
Halfway to the shelter, the enclaves, the camps…

So, there it is, everything exploded
Until a rain brings us together
Beneath overhangs and awnings
And time stops and rivulets
Streak down windows into
The naked gutters, and
We can’t get wet enough
And we can’t stay dry, and
The gods are too busy smoting
Or begetting while people push
Angels from the frame
To stand beneath their halos.

 

Cindy King, while born in Cleveland, Ohio, considers herself a naturalized Southerner, having lived in Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama (and North Florida). Her work has appeared in Callaloo, North American Review, African American Review, American Literary Review, jubilat, The Louisville Review, Sou’wester, Blackbird, River Styx, TriQuarterly, Cimarron Review, Black Warrior, The Cincinnati Review, The Pinch, and elsewhere. Though technically not the South, she currently lives in Southern Utah and teaches at Dixie State University.