Jane Hilberry


You can keep a dead person’s spirit with you for four years,
a Lakota healer says, but if you do, you must attend
to nothing else those years, then let the spirit go.
In my yard, a flicker pecks at the dried grass, flight compressed
into its tiny form. Once when my spirit tried to leave,
when I became too scared to live, Rose kept me with her.
She made me meals, put me to bed on her couch.
After she died, I kept looking for a sign–
the yellow flowers hatching in December,
a tiny rainbow that bloomed between clouds.
I saw someone at the movies last night who looked like Rose,
but younger, happy, motioning and mouthing something
to her lover who had just stepped inside.
The last time I saw Rose, I read to her.
She couldn’t speak, but she opened her eyes
and spelled on the chart that looked like a Ouiji board,
I’m listening. I just like to close my eyes.
It took so long to spell it out.
The woman in the movie theater is alive,
waving at her friend, forming words with her lips
but not saying them because she knows
he can’t hear them across such a distance.

Jane Hilberry
Listening is reprinted from Body Painting, (Red Hen Press, 2005).