Sheila Bender




You are folding the clothes of a child
and thinking about this afternoon and the month after next
when the ghost of your husband carries the ghost of your girl,
“She’s fallen 6 feet from the porch rail to the sidewalk,”
and the child sleeps in his arms breath shallow as at birth.

Touch her skin and you feel it collapse like a parachute.
Watch her eyes flicker open, they are murky, do not reflect
even the clouds up there waiting to come together,
and now the future waits,
all of you suddenly pinched behind the neck.

In the next minutes she will respond to her name.
You can see in her waking
there are clouds in her eyes
and you remember her saying this morning
her friends believed god lived in the sky
but she knew she would have seen him up there
riding the clouds and anyway she’d heard on television
that god had a purple head.

The hours in intensive care you will watch
clouds sheet the sky like hospital linen
and hear the chirp of heart monitors like crickets
out of place in the night.

This night you are a stage mother pushing
your child to perform for neurologists and nurses
in the reciting of names, her own, her brother’s, her dog’s,
in the telling of how many fingers
and the matching of her finger to theirs.

After this only waiting is left.
Hours unfold out of themselves like a telescope
and you watch the sky turn the lightest shade of purple.

Then you pray to her god and to all
the grape popsicles in the freezer, to her purple crayon,
to the foxglove and alyssum in the yard,
to all purple things that they may keep their color,
retrieve it from her bruised forehead, ear, stem of her brain.


“Folding” is from Behind Us The Way Grows Wider, due out in a month or two from Pixelita Press, Port Townsend, WA, and first appeared in Poetry Northwest and then in Love From the Coastal Route.

Sheila Bender is a nationally known author, poet, writing instructor and mentor. She has published six books on writing and numerous books of poetry. Sheila is the founder of Writing it Real, a very successful writing instructional program, and her latest venture is working with Pixelita Press for an eBook series for iPad that includes instruction via interactive writing prompts using photography. Discover more of Sheila’s work at Writing it Real.

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