“Loss,” “Walking the dog” and “How It Began”

Photo by LAWRENCE HULTS on Unsplash


I’ve read that visual memories

are easier to recall than words,

so when I can’t remember the name

of the tree by the garden hedge

white blossoms in springtime,

I think of our dog, Finn, basking

beneath it, long ears stroking the earth,

know it is a dogwood tree.

Similarly the name of the bush

below the bird feeder often evades me,

so I imagine a miniature camel,

hooves scuffing the black oil sunflower seed,

and recollect it is an Andromeda shrub.

When I can’t think of the word oratorio

I see you singing Handel’s Messiah in the choir

at Carnegie Hall, remember the standing ovation,

how cold the air felt as we pushed with the crowds

through glass doors out onto 57th street,

red-bowed wreaths stiff with frost.

But for the word loss I picture you

at Thanksgiving and Christmas, in summer

on Fire Island, all of us together then,

our boys, men now, splashing in the plastic pool,

slipping on the wet deck, you laughing

from the kitchen, the red-winged blackbird

calling high in the pine.

Walking the dog

The days blend together,

like visible light and dark matter merged

in the massive Great Attractor, one hundred

quadrillion times heavier than our sun.

And yet today is like no other.

The Earth leans millions of miles closer

to the Lion constellation than yesterday.

Mercury rises low above the horizon,

faint in sunset’s afterglow. The moon

is shrinking and you are gone.

Raw sienna lints the landscape, tints

dried leaves clumped beneath

the decades-old split-rail fence.

Shadows paint the dry grass,

giant tree limbs stretch across the lawn,

longer now. Pine cones hang on

like newly woven cocoons, create

a Japanese brush drawing

reflected on the cottage wall.

We walk the dog up the hiking trail,

he bounds in pure delight.

His wolf shadow follows.

How It Began

Turkey, rutabaga mashed the Scottish way,

sweet potatoes sliced, sautéed in butter,

beans, creamed onions and cauliflower

crowded, like food in a Dutch still life painting

on the polished oval table.

Three generations, plates overflowing,

passing platters, at ease chatting.

The boys, older now, help clear the dishes

then disappear. We hear the muted thump

of a basketball. How many Thanksgivings

have replayed this way? Adults settle

by the fire. My mother-in-law, almost ninety,

still the matriarch, a  blue scarf tucked

around her neck, matching pants and sweater.

I know you are friendly, she suddenly says,

her voice strangely staccato, so I feel

I can tell you that I don’t know who I am.

About the Author

Patricia Hemminger

Patricia Hemminger’s experience of growing up in rural UK, along with her science background and love of nature, informs and inspires her poetry. She is a science and environmental writer who holds a PhD in chemistry and is a graduate of NYU’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP) and of Drew University’s MFA Poetry Program. Her poems have been published in Spillway, The Blue Nib, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, River Heron Review, Twyckenham Notes and Streetlight Magazine, among others. Her chapbook What do We Know of Time is forthcoming by Finishing Line Press in 2022.