Sally O’Dowd is the author of the poetry collection Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Other Tales of Love and Loss.
I found the horoscopes
from the local newspaper
that you cut into little squares and rectangles
and pinned on the cork board in the kitchen.
You wrote dates on them in clean script,
a cursive N for November,
its proper wing.
As you lay dying in the living room,
your Piscean fortunes and feelings
stood firm on paper,
browned and crisped by the passing years,
like julienned potatoes in a skillet.
I wonder if you intended for me
to find them so that I’d write a poem,
and we five children would know
how to live without you.
Did you know an eagle, a prince and a speck of stardust
drifted away, soon after you?
As they make music with doves,
are you dancing in heaven’s living room?
I’m left to wonder
how astrology scored you so perfectly,
gentle strumming and sweet.
You’re gone —
instrumentals a baby cry.
The little pieces of paper
were your Greek chorus of truth.
You were fluid like a school of bright colors
swimming through calm and rough seas.
Buoyant energy poured from your gills
up through the smile
on the sunglow of your face.
You got us to a laughing place.
On your second-to-last birthday,
the twenty-third of February,
winter was outshone
by your emotional bouquet.
You’d win come spring;
I, a Virgo, adored you.
At times you hid your sensitive mood —
an actress at summer stock.
You were deeply wounded.
I know that now, and I’m sorry.
I would have liked to change things.
I wish I could.
At the end you were looking back on a time
when you felt rested, purified,
your mind a stretch of white beach.
Silently, you were building up the courage
to swim somewhere new,
the sun powering your efforts.
When the time was right,
your gills would exhale — good-bye.
You kept one horoscope,
perhaps a caution —
there’d be more important things
than selling the house.
quotes Einstein, a Piscean:
“Not everything that can be
Not everything that counts
can be counted.”
Horoscopes is from my collection Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Other Tales of Love and Loss. Last winter, after my mother died, I went through the horoscopes my mother had pinned to the wall. I wrote them down and played with the language for months — no need to be literal. As I wrote this poem, I wept, many times, to I Can’t Tell You Why by The Eagles, with a gorgeous falsetto by Timothy B. Schmit. Below is a concert video. Thank you, David Crook, for your art — making this a truly multimedia piece about family and grief.