Poetry | March 1, 2021

Family visits

Listen to the poem


Spellbound we sat in the Kindom of Zoom—
You there and we here, as across from each other
In the same living room, and not in mere ether—
Across from each other in this very room.

Before last Palm Sunday, we languished in gloom,
While thinking ahead to when death’s wings would hover
Over us all, our lives almost over,
We standing ourselves on the edge—well, of doom.

Blind force may have plotted our lives from the womb,
But perhaps on account of the dreams of our mother
And those whom we cherish who love one another,
Light shines on the other side of the tomb.

We dreamed, I suppose, that the shadows that loom
At our end are but signals that angel wings hover
Above us, and that—although life may be over—
Our prospect for joys to be had may balloon.

The thought that we talked with our dead was a spume.
Between us a great gulf was fixed—though, dear brother,
We acted as though we could talk with each other,
As freely as water flows down from a flume.

But now April flowers have started to bloom—
As so it would seem in this life and hereafter.
We here and you there, voices rise to the rafter
On earth as in heaven. All praise then to whom?

Our praise for such visits will rise like a plume.
They give us—these visits—the excellent flavor
Of joys conversational we so much favor
They rival the pleasure of bride and bridegroom.

Note from the poet: This poem is about my experience of a new thing, a new way of communicating with family during a pandemic without exposing each other to the disease. The experience of this new thing is for me profoundly spiritual—a foretaste of heaven which, I now see, can be had while we are still in this life, involving interaction both with those who have died and with those who are still living.

Charles Klingler is professor emeritus of English at Manchester University, North Manchester, Indiana.