Late, Late Summer
by Larry Johnson

    In the end, all the darkness had gathered
    around the loved old man's hospital bed
    and we comforted
    the aging chaplain as best we could
    when he said:
    Go together in your grief,
    miss a day & you miss a lot,
    you sorta loved your old grandpa
    didn't you? Asked my boy if he had
    ever lost a pet, rehashed
    a small-town fish fry at length
    and introduced
    us to one another
    as if we were strangers.
    Maybe. But we got him through it,
    not knowing then that 6 months before his wife
    had packed the car and left without a word.
    He talked.

    Outside a dawn storm pulled over,
    all truly crashing thunder and lightning strikes
    on the trees around the river.

    Later at home, this year's crop of cardinals,
    so oddly all females,
    angling against the new light, raised a calling
    from a muted bunch of fresh, fine, brown hopeful
    bird-shaped souls.

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