Poems & Essays

19 Dec

Kairos*: A Litany

General/Column No Response

*Ancient Greek for “the appointed or crucial time, the season” / “the appointed time in the purpose of God” (Biblical)

Over now, the season of delicate, winged
things, but the dry domestic air
flutters with memories:

We remember Delaware
and the emerald dragonfly
that met its appointed end
on the back steps of our beach house—
how we placed it like a specimen or broach
in a tray all week—how its head swiveled
and tilted in our daughter’s hands.

We remember the resilient moth
we thought had drowned in the bathtub
beneath a swirling layer of suds—
how it lay wilted on a tissue, then twitched,
stood, and fanned its wings
at our disbelieving faces,
while our daughter squealed a halleluiah.

We remember the monarch emerging
like flames from its cocoon—
how it met our daughter’s blue eyes
through jar glass, and when released,
flew unsteadily through light drizzle
toward tall pines and sky.

We remember the butterflies and moths
our daughter captured with her pink net
each Saturday in the dewy churchyard.

We remember the dragonfly
whirring through the sanctuary
at a funeral—how it honored the deceased
and his delight in insects—how its loops and whirls
assured us of his unburdened spirit.

We remember the unexpected
blessing of conception and the cocoon
of waiting—how its fibers of fear
clogged our dreams.

What of all the autumn caterpillars
our daughter eased into jars,
who’ve cloaked themselves in cottony webs,
but haven’t yet emerged? Come spring,
will they break out to unfurl and dry
new wings? What was—or is—
their appointed time?


A previous contributor to Mothers Always Write, Shanna Powlus Wheeler directs the Writing Center at Lycoming College. Her poetry chapbook, Lo & Behold, was published by Finishing Line Press. Individual poems of hers have appeared in a wide range of publications. She lives with her husband and children near Williamsport, PA.

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