Not To Speak Ill

She lived in the house
on the other side of the young cedars
at the bottom of our yards.
I waited for them to grow and give me my privacy—
I calculated the time it would take
until she could no longer see me.

If I’m honest, I didn’t like her much;
she was a bit too high and mighty
for me.

Once, I spent an evening
in her company, and by the time
I got home, knew in my mind,
I’d never do it again.

Conversations always filled me with anxiety
and a longing to slip away.
(It may have been my own insecurity.)

I did watch out for her—
made sure her blinds came up
the same time every morning,
her lights went off at night,
but Christmas was busy;
we thought she was away, not hurt
and bleeding
on the stone floor.

She died suddenly; it might have been a fall.
(We don’t know the details.)
She wasn’t hateful, or cruel, or any of those things,
but she made me feel small.

She was an old woman on her own
and now I feel guilty for every thing I thought—
all the times I avoided her, not really giving her a shot.

Looking out across the trees covered in snow
I know, she’s never coming out that back door again.

I’m sorry, Diane.

Kathleen Mortensen © 2016




The death of summer has me desolate.

Verdure goes gold, then turns  to tinder on the ground;
warm-weather birds have blown away
with the winds of autumn.

I have put my dear friends to bed—
sheared off their heads and abandoned them
to their sleep.

The first snow falls, leaving me cold;
a crow’s call cracks the sound
of silence.

Winter creeps in.

I have no illusions;  I am housebound,
until spring comes back.

Kathleen Mortensen © 2016

Time On My Hands IV

I wake and stretch;
fingers resist, insisting
on their preferred curl—
reluctantly along with
tired limbs.

There’s black dirt
trapped beneath short nails—
residue from mulch
hand-spread on parched ground.

We are both drying up,
the earth and I.

This organ, this skin
is burnished by the sun,

Its network of fine lines
weaves organic leather
preserving the underneath.

These hands,
God willing,
may serve—’til my death.

Kathleen Mortensen @2016


Please visit the below links to read the first three poems in this series.  Thank you.

Time On My Hands III

Time On My Hands II

Time On My Hands I


I bought for my mother,
A marmalade treat,
To have with her breakfast
On toast for to eat,
But next morning
She never got up from her bed;
From her pillow,
She did not raise up her tired head,
So she never again will taste
Thick-cut orange spread,
That she so used to love
On her golden-grilled bread,
But forever, the memory of her
Will not fade,
When I spread my toast with
Her orange marmalade.

Kathleen Mortensen @ 2016

A Bird In The Hand

A sparrow, my window,
With velocity hit,
Sunlight was so bright,
That it saw not a whit.

It failed to divert,
From pane, it did bank,
The bang made me jump,
My heart slowly sank.

So hopeful, I bounded,
With alacrity, raced,
To find it lay broken,
On my patio, placed.

I saw at a glance,
To one side, its head loll,
Knew that the impact
Had taken its toll,

Then, carefully picking
It up in my palm,
I softly caressed its
Warm breast to becalm,

As if it were living,
Though eyes were shut tight,
No breath was expiring—
He’d flown his last flight.

I wrapped it in paper,
Lay it down on the floor,
Of my shed to await,
A swift burial, poor.

We laid it in earth,
Near Francis, in stone,
Trusting its soul,
To the heavens has flown.

Kathleen Mortensen©2008

I am bereft. Despite having put up a birdfeeder back in the early days of December, we have had nothing more than a trio of juncoes who stopped by around a noon for a few days. At my old house in the city, we had countless birds of endless variety. They made my winter more bearable. I am bereft.


Driving against the winter sun,
I am blind with the dazzle that pings
off windshields and metal things.
My window’s streaked by the wiper’s blade;
there’s a half-moon of lard, hard in my white-out view.
My hands grasp the rubber wheel while I idle at a red;
creep along with my head
tucked under the visor— blinking at the too-bright light.
Rear-mirror reveals another driver,
stealing behind in the same frame of mind – we’re all blind.

Big-boot poised on the gas-pedal, I hope my heel doesn’t stick
to the edge of the mat on the floor—
accelerate me into eternity.

Kat Mortensen©2010

Glace Bay Boy (for my uncle, Jimmy)

There were tall tales about you:

Playing truant to
jump the ice-clampers off the coast of The Bay,

or shooting pool up on Commercial
with that Neil McNeil,
like two of those trouble-boys from The Music Man
(who still served at mass on Sunday).

I can see you playing Boogie-Woogie
in the parlour,
at the house on York Street.
Your cigarette’s
hanging off the end of the piano,
Nanny kept a keen eye on the ash as it burned.

Muriel still talks about the way you spurned her
at that dance—for somebody else
(long-term memories don’t die).

Oh, you sure could dance! Mom says it was you who taught her
and Joan how to jive, when you were both alive
and young.

Now mom’s the only one left of your trio.

I think of you whenever I hear Jazz,
or come across
one of those old  James Bond  paperbacks
in a thrift store.
Remember, I borrowed a slew of yours?

The scent of Brut will forever conjure you.

I’m so glad, I got to say adieu
before you left for good.

Kat Mortensen©2015