By Kathleen Flenniken

There’s little I can pack for you, no lucky charm
or incantation, only years and years of daily instruction

I hope you’ve heard. I’ll be the waving hand
and hesitation in the window, then I end

and the road begins. If you grow lonely for me,
rest your cheek on the breast of a gold grass hill

or the breast of a sand dune erased and rewritten
by the wind, look for the shape of me in an ocean swell

and decide that’s all you need,
and I’ll imagine the trinkets you leave behind

as a quieter version of you. If I can.
And with my long arm raise my shield,

larger than any moon, shining
because I’ve polished it in my mind

since before you were born.


By Kathleen Flenniken
for my oldest

I stretch out on the stainless steel tray
that is this sleepless dark
and examine my own maternal sensors
tuned half a world away to your blinking light.

Imagine arrays of radio scanners spinning
while the blip that is you
strolls cobbled streets in Spain.
I read you very clearly.

Thank you for shifting one pair of underwear
from your suitcase to your carry-on
before we checked your bags and said goodbye.

What do I do with these feeler things
once they outlast their usefulness?
Like extra hands getting in the way.

Before you were born
I let go of your stroller in a dream
and watched you tumble off a cliff.
They were just emerging then.

Another Letter About the Weather

By Kathleen Flenniken

You still send letters though you are dead
and because you are free of the US Postal System
they arrive anytime—
in the car at a light as I watch an outnumbered mother
holding back her wound-up children from the street,
in the middle of Australian costume dramas,
or while I forage in the pantry shelves,
famished and not even hungry.

Here’s one now, praising me
for little songs I made up on the piano,
my lavishly romantic Valentines, and recalling
our annual excursion to the dog show
where once you let me eat a Twinkie
and we impersonated for each other
elaborately ponytailed and pompommed

Every morning a letter arrives,
smelling of coffee and bacon
and plans for the day, describing the clouds
as you always did, but now
from the other side.

Kathleen Flenniken is the author of two poetry collections, Plume, a meditation on the Hanford Nuclear Site, finalist for the William Carlos Williams Award, and Famous, named a Notable Book by the American Library Association. Her honors include fellowships from the NEA and Artist Trust, a Pushcart Prize, and a 2015 residency at the Bloedel Reserve. She served as the Washington State Poet Laureate from 2012 – 2014. “Shield” previously appeared in Signs of Life, Facere, 2014; “Brooding” previously appeared in The Mom Egg; “Another Letter About the Weather” was previously published in Stringtown.