by Karen Luke Jackson

When you hunch over the bed
of loved ones dying

your hand clasping hers
your prayers for him unceasing

flashes from the past float
like ghosts in your head─

the lovers she took
the bankruptcy he filed

a sabbatical in London
that failed to materialize

children she never bore
after the miscarriage─

memories vanishing as day
slits the room and time froths

with nurses checking vital signs
friends saying farewell

comforting you, until,
once again dark descends

you resume your post
days and nights looping

the clock without end.
Then, and only then, you face

what you must do:
kneel and plead that death,

blessed death, come soon.

Karen Luke Jackson lives in a cottage on a goat pasture in Flat Rock, North Carolina. Her poems and stories have appeared in Ruminate, Friends Journal, Broad River Review, moonShine review, The Great Smokies Review, Emrys, Kestrel, and Kakalak. Currently she’s working on a chapbook, Clancey the Clown, about her sister,. Karen also leads retreats and serves as a facilitator with the Center for Courage & Renewal.

About Vigils—During the past few years, I’ve been with loved ones as they died. “Vigils” ambushed me when assigned a “When/Then” poem for Eric Nelson’s class.