Three Poems by Cordelia Hanemann

These three poems by Cordelia Hanemann explore the poignancy of loss and the intricacies of grieving in fraught and imperfect relationships…

by: Cordelia Hanemann

The Dream and the Waking

Do not, after waking, look out the window
if you wish to remember your dream.
A window is one world, the dream another.
               — Jacqueline Winter Thomas

Yes, windows obscure what we remember
but what we remember is a dream
and vanishes in our waking 
even as the sun creeps across the lawn.

Yes, the dream evaporates
even as inklings shadow my thoughts,
and I look for you elsewhere
though I know you are gone.

So many names, we wake 
with from our dreams and fantasies,
the names of the gone : mother/ father/
sister/ brother/ husband // even those 
who live still but are gone from our lives, 
lives shaped less by dreams
than by what lies outside the window.

If I loved you, and I believe I did,
even here after all this time
after you have been gone a long time
the inklings linger and betray.

All this time and even now your voice
reaches : a tenderness and a mocking
it was tendentious : even your sweetness,
your childish teasing, your joy.
Were you looking for a mother,
and I always suspicious of tenderness,
the mocking rather familiar.

Then, how you forgot it all  
how I have missed it.

We had something : a friendship
if nothing else and for a long time trust.
Love, I think, has many faces,
and though the streets you walked, 
the houses we lived in
the places we have been all
have forgotten you / us. 

I do not forget—even standing
at the window looking out
as I whisper your name 
against the glass.
my old mother 

reconciled to a dis-semblance of complacency
by years of living alone in a lonely town
now empty of all the old friends and family
and the now alien space of a place
not her own /  her oncoming deafness 

meals shared in the intimacy of strangers
foods not her own / not her own bed
the muffled sounds of conversations
somewhat heard but barely understood

I come for her / her daughter/ I
who am I after so long an absence
off living my own life / hers a vacancy

I touch the wrinkles of her cheeks
those hands hers so dear
no tears so little recognition,
an eclipse begetting a strange darkness
Homage to the Colonel

My father, the colonel, seemed
to have martial origins, certainly 
a military bearing, stood on
perpetual alert, expecting
instantaneous obedience, a plethora
of yes-sirs, thank you very much.

He wore his atten-hut like a Victorian
corset designed to configure brave
tin soldier, decked out in dress blues,
braid and epaulets, boasting
bars of medals, the purple heart hung
around his neck like a noose.

A casualty of American wars.
His wound: get ready-aim-fire,
kill to forget who you are: obey,
obey, obey, yes sir!

But once the little boy of him
leaked out to play dodge-ball
with two sons and neighborhood
kids in the cul-de-sac in Arlington.

Where now he can rest,
knowing for sure, he'll never
be called up again for Bataan
or Korea or Viet Nam or
Kuwait or Iraq, Iran, Syria,
Ukraine or Lebanon, Palestine.

Rest, my Lt. Col. Daddy.
Rest at last, salute, salut,
and I will play Mozart's Requiem, not
Washington Post at your gravesite.

Cordelia Hanemann, writer and artist, currently co-hosts Summer Poets, a poetry critique group in Raleigh, NC. Retired English professor emerita, she conducts occasional poetry workshops and is active with youth poetry in the North Carolina Poetry Society. She is also a botanical illustrator and lover of all things botanical. She has published in numerous journals including, Atlanta Review, Laurel Review, and California Quarterly and others; in several anthologies including best-selling Poems for the Ukraine and her chapbook. Her poems have been performed by the Strand Project, featured in select journals, won awards and been nominated for Pushcarts. She is now working on a novel about her Cajun roots. 

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