by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

The world as Sallyann knew it crashed
just hours after they snorkeled
in the blue clear waters of Micronesia.
Rushing to catch their plane
her husband stumbled, couldn’t walk.
The first angel, a doctor with FEMA,
was passing by.
In the clinic other angels appeared,
cared for Stuart, watched with Sallyann,
smoothed the way for their separate passages.

Bereft and reeling, with the help
of the people of Chuuk, new friends
she softly calls her angels,
Sallyann somehow got through
the next horrible days.
Packing each item of importance—
passports, wallets, photos, shells—
into her sturdy canvas travel bag,
she was never more than an inch
from its comforting presence.

At home she rebuilt her life,
crossed off list after list of “must dos,”
transferred essentials to a plain black purse.
Dropping with fatigue
after a morning of chores,
she stopped at an old friend’s house,
another angel, to revive over a cup of tea—
and discovered, with racing pulse,
her purse was gone.

She and friend retraced her movements.
At Costco, amid sighs of relief,
she learned an employee had found the purse
right where she’d parked it and tucked it
in the office of the huge store.
Sallyann marveled at her coping skills
in the crisis on Chuuk, at the complete blank
of her mind once safely home, and at the angels
who appeared each time they were needed.

by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

He left in spring, juicy with youth,
cello in his arms, eyes full
of tears and the view fading—
his beloved city’s spires hazy with distance.

Decades later in December he returned,
cello in his arms, eyes full
of tears at the rubble, his city’s spires
crumbled, run through with rats.

His heart shredded with the knowledge
that his own people had done this—
destroyed their city of dreams,
slaughtered their hopes.

When the Serbs started shelling at twilight
the old man clutched his cello, ignored
pleas to enter the bomb shelter, walked
into the night alone.

At the pile of broken stone and twisted steel
that once was his home, he climbed
with aching legs to the top.
Settling himself on a flattened slab,

he stroked his bow across the strings. Wisps
of white hair blew in the gentle wind.
On his upturned face snowflakes fell. Shells exploded
at a short distance and, in the growing dark,

the essence of ancient Christmas
carols drifted like incense
through the ruins.

by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

She bolted from the house,
from the turkey gravy she was stirring,
from the guests with wine glasses
tilted to their lips,
from her new step-daughter’s family.

In the slight protection of the eaves
she opened her mouth, released
into the rain the wail that had built
through an endless round of hosting.
Bent from the waist, she roared out sobs
she’d swallowed all day.

Heedless of her hairdo
she stepped away from shelter
into the storm, tipped her head back,
let rain wash down her cheeks
with the tears.

Returning through a distant door
she splashed cold water on red, swollen eyes,
dragged a comb through flattened hair,
freshened makeup. Pinning a smile
on still-trembling lips, she rejoined the group

apologizing to no one,
including her husband
of a few months,
for missing the husband
no longer there.

by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Mother’s in jail,
spinning a haze
of alcohol fumes.

Nineteen days later
the two-year-old girl is discovered
snuggled in her plastic bathtub
at home. Thumb in mouth,
covered by a bath towel,
she watches TV.

Never the tidiest diner,
the child is covered with crusts
of the ketchup, mustard, dry pasta
she found to eat.

Somehow the mother
forgot to mention
her daughter.

by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Around the bend a young squirrel
lies in the middle of the street,
his plush gray fur luxuriant
against the worn asphalt.

As my feet crunch on gravel
he flops to his other side,
tail twitching a plumed random rhythm.

Of their own accord my legs slow,
mind races over options.

Beaming safe passage into black eyes
shining some unknown animal
thought into mine,
I walk on.

Beside the road the sibling scuttles,
approach, retreat,
fast up a small almond tree,
whirling in circles of distress.

On my return I halt at vision’s edge,
watch the young other
run from the roadside, place paws

on his brother’s form.
He chatters
encouragement? farewell?

The live one paces one circuit
around the brother, still now
and curled, then races up the tree

where a mockingbird sits, silent,
among green almonds.

Patricia Wellingham-Jones, former psychology researcher/writer/editor, has been published in journals, newspapers, anthologies, and online. She has won numerous awards and been the featured poet in several journals. Her most recent books are Don’t Turn Away: Poems About Breast Cancer, Labyrinth: Poems & Prose, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level and Lummox Press Little Red Book series, A Gathering Glance. She lives in northern California

PWJ Publishing


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