“Here, After” by Doris Ferleger

I am writing to tell you
what it was like for me
the days I sat beside you, holding
the phone on speaker
so you could hear the deadpan voice
of the autistic Zen master whose
flatness of tone made him masterfully
matter-of-fact as a death guide
saying things like: If you’re experiencing
“negative emotions” as you Westerners 
call them, fear, confusion, anger,
I will offer a different meditation.
But as long as you’re in neutral 
or at ease, we’ll stick to the practice of 
“seeing rest, feeling rest, hearing rest.” 
And your wife and son can follow along
as you go about being swallowed up Bitul Ha yesh,
into the nullification of somethingness.
I am writing to tell you I did feel
like something in me was dying,
not with you, or instead of you,
just something in my body
that said I must go
to our favorite woods,
and the Zen master said he would
accompany me by phone
to the Wissahickon, which felt even scarier
than watching you die,
because the master would witness
my breath, its readiness
for your death,
and I was trying
to get away from feeling
close to death for even an hour,
but I agreed since I didn’t
want to appear ungrateful
or unfit to accompany you
on your journey beyond
your favorite wide trees
I would be passing
where our voices
once whispered
against each other.


Doris Ferleger, Ph.D., winner of the New Letters Poetry Prize, Robert Fraser Poetry Prize, and the AROHO Creative Non-Fiction Prize, among others, is the author of three full-length volumes of poetry, BigSilences in a Year of Rain, As the Moon Has Breath, and Leavened, and a chapbook entitled When You Become Snow. Among many accolades about Ferleger’s work, Aliki Barnestone writes: These memorable poems keep singing with their insistent beauty. Her work has been published in numerous journals including Cimarron Review, L.A. Review, and South Carolina Review, and she is a former Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, PA. She holds an MFA in Poetry and a Ph.D. in psychology and maintains a mindfulness based therapy practice in PA. 


“Sisters” by Fabrice Poussin