Sandra Kohler, “Imperfections”

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November. Thanksgiving and family, feasts
and failures. My friend the therapist says
everyone’s issue with the holidays is the gap
between the happiness one is supposed to
feel and the reality of one’s own family life.
A perfectionist, she lives alone; every room
of her house reveals her mastery. I think I
should declare myself an imperfectionist.

Another friend emails: his dying sister says
she’s squandered her life and he tells her
we all do, no one’s up to the marvel it is.
He doesn’t know if she believes him.
My sister, who always turned away from
the pain of others, now diagnosed with
Alzheimers’, has begun to remember it:
our father going to work each day at a job
he hated, a family her young family knew
dying in a fire. Losing the present, her
past is transformed, a part of her she’d
kept imprisoned surfacing, crying out.

In a dream last night I resurrect a dead
woman and kill off her surviving lover.
The mourner is as lost as the mourned.
Fear and suffering all around me, I wake,
like Hopkins, to the fell of dark. I realize,
imperfectionist, one just has to live.


Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music, (Word Press) appeared in May 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared recently in Beloit Poetry Journal, Tar River Poetry, Damfino, and Mantis.


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