Mourning My Mom

All those months of hospice  
   I pictured us easing into goodbye:
Family gathered at the end, 
   taking turns holding your hand.
Then you died suddenly alone, 
   leaving us empty-handed.

This is my sijo that placed second in the adult division of the Sejong Cultural Society’s 2022 Writing Competition. (To see all the winning entries, click here.) I wrote it the week after my mom died, little knowing it would be the first poem in what has become my Afterdeath collection. Peace to our s!

Two for Ukraine

Hope for a Broken World

Hope is the thing with broken wings
That lurches in the soul,
And sings the dirge with Slavic words,
And waits for night to fall.

But lest we give in to despair,
Recall that wings will heal,
And many tongues unite in prayer,
And dawn awaits us still.

Playing Along

All those underlings
Doing everything
Putin says.

Simon says
Over all the dead,
There is blame to spread.

NaPoWriMo22 Day 24 — Going my own way today to acknowledge the current state of our world. I’m thinking of and praying for my Ukrainian brothers and sisters, my Russian brothers and sisters as well, and all who are helping those affected by the war. For those unfamiliar with the children’s game Simon Says, here’s a brief description. Peace to all s! Peace in our world!

Upstairs, Downstairs

Upstairs, Mom.
She’s stuck in her room.
Dad’s downstairs,
free to roam
the house, though he mostly sits
on the couch and sleeps.

I go up.
Mom’s in bed, watching
a game show.
We both think
the host looks better in blue.
I guess some answers.

I head down,
ask Dad if he needs
more soda.
No, he needs
a big pain pill. “I don’t know,”
he says. A refrain.

I go up
to give Mom her lunch.
It’s okay
if I leave.
Dad needs the company more
than she does. She says.

I head down,
scrounge lunch while Dad broods
on the couch,
eating squat.
He still doesn’t know. Neither
do I. So I smile.

It’s better
than frowning, I hope,
though it’s not
how I go up and head down,
torn between the two.

NaPoWriMo22 Day 14 — Today would have been my Dad’s 83rd birthday, the first since he died in January, seven weeks after my mom’s death. I’m still processing, and writing poems to capture different aspects of the experience. I wrote this one this morning. Peace to our s!

The Orphan

The girl child cried. Her parents died, you see,

Not one, one year; the other, years and years

Later—but back-to-back and suddenly.

The world was insecure now, edged with fears.

Her brother bore his new authority,

Braided her hair but didn’t wipe her tears.

She wanted to tell him it hurt her head,

He was too rough, both her parents were dead.

NaPoWriMo22 Day 8 — Another poem inspired by a prompt from murisopsis, to write an ottava rima. Peace to your !

Notes on Healing

are a start. Warmer
weather helps.
Longer days,
lighter days, all good. But not
what I really need.

What I need
(okay, really want)
is summer,
hours and hours
steeping in the sun, healing
from the outside in.

Then I think:
skin cancer, rogue moles,
sun damage.
Then I write
shadormas, sijos—healing
from the inside out.

NaPoWriMo22 Day 4 — A poem I’ve been pondering several weeks that finally came into its own as a series of shadormas. It happens to fit murisopsis‘s poetry scavenger hunt prompt #12, to write about healing. I now have 18 poems written in the wake of my parents’ deaths (see “Afterdeath“) and will post more of them once NaPoWriMo is over. I’m calling it my Afterdeath collection. Peace to your , particularly if you’re healing from the loss of a loved one or dealing with cancer personally or among family or friends.


then Dad,
heaven bound
seven weeks apart.
Six months of taking shifts, tending.
My siblings and I
free to rest
in peace

My mom died in December and my dad died a month ago today. May they rest in peace! Among various cards and letters they had saved, I found the poem below, written as a school assignment when I was in the sixth grade and mailed from the school. Peace to our s!

“Sound Bites”

In November we remember in a special way our loved ones who have died. Peace to your and to the hearts of all who are grieving.

Sound Bites


My revised wish list:
acoustic tiles for the ceiling,
tapestries for the walls,
carpeting for the kitchen floor.

There is too much dead space
and more echoes
than one person can absorb.


Did you know you can hear
the ticking of the living room clock
from the master bedroom?

Either my hearing’s getting better
or I was deafened by the softness
of your breathing.


Some days I recognize
the tune but not the words;
other days, the same two lines
play in an infinite loop.
Always I dream we are dancing
to a rhythm I used to know.


When I call myself back to reality,
my voice sounds strange,
like I’m on a deserted island
with bad cell phone reception.


I talk into thin air and am crushed
by the weight of your silence.


“How are you doing?” Do you
really want to know?
I fudge a little
or a lot. I would love
to discuss this with you.


I have a raincheck
for a future conversation
tucked between the photo of us
at our wedding and the one of you
in the casket, where I can’t forget it.


Your life spoke volumes. Now
your voice is only a whisper

and I am afraid

I can barely
hear it.

© Stephanie Malley

NaPoWriMo 2018 Day 23 – Write a poem based in sound.