After my sister’s funeral
her daughter gathers up photos,
my grieving brother-in-law
hands out orchids in pots.
I take one, don’t try
to keep it alive.

Each bloom indicts me—
guilty of not showing up
for anniversaries, birthdays,
baby showers. Absent when
parents needed care, help
clipping toenails, getting
dressed. Not there when Dad
picked out both caskets,
ordered liquid food for Mom.
Missing when my sister chose
their final outfits for those two days
I arrive on time.

I email my niece—
three hours away
and it’s been six months—
tell myself she’s busy,
two young boys, high-powered job.

Her mother’s orchid dies,
petals pale and dry
shatter at my touch.

Jan Chronister is a retired writing instructor living in sight of Lake Superior. Her poetry appears in numerous print, online journals, and anthologies. Jan currently serves as president of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. Find her online at:

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