By Sharon Scholl

Death Doulas

Years ago it was
	young Father Brown
	old Bishop O’Leary
      priests at the raw edge of faith
      with eyes that were too innocent
            or too full of suffering.
  Emissaries from that ancient certainty
  of heaven with rites in secret language
  chanted to secure safety from the nether regions.

Their bedside visit would obtain confession
	of matters better left unsaid,
        	or hang the tatters of an old regret
	to rattle in a fading breath.

 The new doulas come with songs, 
            consolation to kindle 
            the remains of memory.
Their comfort is the certainty 
             that life is meaningful
     despite whatever hapless horror,
suspect victory or longings unfulfilled define it.

They demand no penance, 
           give no promises.
They reconstruct the sounds and smells
of sentiment, fragments of old joys,
           caresses lost with childhood.

They come to weave the scattered tunes
           of lifetimes into settled harmony,
 a consonance that makes the cadence 
           of a long song bearable.


Writers receive them
blank, unlined,
 like snow that dares us 
to mar its pristine surface.

They suggest we dash
our poems off in the white
heat of inspiration
instead of hacking them out
in fits and starts
with cross-outs, inserts,
spaces where invention fails.

Should we leave evidence
of so many second thoughts,
indecisions, hesitations,
 grammatical indecencies?

Wisdom suggests we’re not
bad off scribbling
on scraps, the backs
of grocery bills or envelopes,
whatever’s  handy,
easily tossed.

Swallowed by Van Gogh*

*touring exhibit of paintings by projection

Is the Starry Night more starry
splayed on walls and ceiling
of an art museum?

Am I closer to him here
standing in the raging guts
of a sun flower?

I’m plunged into the fields of Arles
bobbing on a tempest of corn stalks,
a field of yellow piercing my eyes.

It’s vertigo end to end from one
pillaged painting to another
magnified beyond my sense of balance.

An iris nightmare swaddles me in blue.
His straw chair seat threatens like a weapon.
His painted door offers no escape.

Sharon Scholl is a retired college professor (humanities) who convenes a poetry critique group and maintains a website of original music ( for small liberal churches. Her poetry chapbooks (Seasons, Remains) are available via Amazon Books.  Individual poems are current in The Big Windows and Vita Poetica. 


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