Two Poems

by Cathie Sandstrom


for Kate

I lifted the white bones from a pool at low tide,
took them home, boiled them with borax
then reassembled the wing and hung it,
framed, in the hallway. The marvel of its
mechanics: radius and ulna so like my own,
wingtip evolved into fingers.

Because I asked for wings, a lover looked
a year before he found them. White-feathered,
on wide shoulder straps like some kind
of heavenly rucksack, they lay against my back
naturally, though not, in the end, enough to hold us
aloft. I can still feel the wind’s heavy resistance,
hear its rush through the fall, the almost
inaudible splash. When he neither returned
nor was summoned, I stored the wings
on a shelf where they lay for years.
I set them on the porch for Goodwill
but dragged them back at once. St. Patrick School
asked no questions, just accepted
the used wings—some eighth grader
would slip them on, deliver news to shepherds.
Now, my grown son stands in the kitchen
hugging me. I can feel your scapulae,
he says, where the wings were.

Death’s Great Black Wing Brushes the Air

with a line from Anna Akhmatova

This is the moment the shadow

brushes close. Like prey, we sense the silent
glide, wait for the talons’ bright grip.
Ours, to live in the space between wingbeats.

The call I’d dreaded came—not from the morgue.
Hospital. The bacteria in his body now in his blood,
the earth’s busy fingers reclaiming my son.

The thousand small ways we fail each other.
His lashes, still blond on his jaundiced cheek.


Photo credit

About Cathie Sandstrom

Cathie Sandstrom’s work has appeared in The Southern Review (and TSR Audio Gallery), Ploughshares, Ekphrasis, Cider Press Review, Comstock Review, and Lyric, among others, and is published by the Academy of American Poets on Anthologies include Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond. A poem and essay appear in The Poetry Mystique. Her poem “You, Again” is in the artists’ book collection at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and an essay, “Braiding the Dreamscape,” is forthcoming from the C.J. Jung Society of St. Louis.

A military brat, she has lived in ten states and four foreign countries. A writer for the National Veterans Foundation, she lives against the San Gabriels just north of downtown Los Angeles. Part of her still expects to hear from the Pentagon any day.

Cathie Sandstrom

Cathie Sandstrom is online at