Things I don’t say in order to explain mortality to my three-year-old son

poetry 0
Heather Madden


This is how heaven was invented.
You know how you can’t remember where you were
before you were here? It’s like that. How

you point to a picture and say, that was me
when I was a shark
, or that was me when I was
an octopus
. For a while you believed

the octopus turned white in order to scare people,
but now you understand the octopus turns white
when it’s frightened.

That bug is sleeping: please don’t touch it. Its body
stopped working like all bodies do, eventually. Of course

you want your grandma. Actually, she’s my grandma,
your great-grandma. My father’s name was William
and his body stopped working. No, he was not very old.

Some people go into the ground, others go into the wind first.
Yes, we can play kites in the graveyard once the snow melts.

You’ll discover other questions beneath the snow. I know
one way we can celebrate: this spring let’s make a garden.
What thrives? What doesn’t? If I say my father lives

inside my heart, will you ask if you can hear him?
Here’s the stethoscope. There’s nothing to be afraid of.
Yes, that noise. My heart,

maybe I should talk about planting. The body
could be like a seed, or perhaps the body,
like any other fruit, is the vehicle.

Heather Madden lives between two fields—with her husband, son, and a small assortment of beasties—in Chesterfield, NH. She works in human services and has served as a contributing editor to Salamander.