Three Poems By Janis Harrington

Do Not Covet Your Sister’s Pet
My sister rescued Hugo from abuse,
a poodle-Bichon Frisé mix, white curls,
soulful brown eyes, loyal to his mistress,
wary of everyone else. For weeks,
I try to coax him from her bed before
he wakes her to go outside. Two goals:
to let her sleep, to win his affection.
I miss my husband and my tabby cat, 
but Hugo refuses to be a substitute.
To seduce him, I whisper let’s walk, dangle
his leash, proffer treats. Today, success—
but the automatic sprinklers’ hiss
sends him leaping back to the front porch,
eyeing my cold shower, keeping out of reach.

After His Suicide
You send me downtown to Vital Records
for official proof: your marriage license
and his death certificate, bookends
to your life as husband and wife.
I see us, in church, on that cold March day:
Nick, pale, perspiring in a rented tux,
trembling beside the priest (not Russian Orthodox,
to his mother’s regret), looking past full pews
for his life raft, as I wait for my bridesmaid cue,
and you, on Dad’s arm, smiling, hair curled—
if a look in a crystal ball had unfurled
the veil hiding the joy and pain on the way,
when the organist struck the march’s first measure,
would you have walked into that future? 

Sedona Liturgy
To recant the heresy of not feeling lucky
to be alive, Nick retreated to a remote site
that renewed his wonder. His Russian parents’
orthodoxy long cast off—his icons:
red sandstone pinnacles, spires, domes.  
Mesquite smoke incense, canyon wind hymns. Alone,
or with his best friend, he celebrated a rite
involving camp fire contemplation, cigars, wine.
Camping clothes and gear kept in garage cabinets,
reverently as linen vestments and goblets,
cabinets my sister will empty in a future
she is unable now to picture.
She enlists us to journey with Nick’s remains,
to scatter them where he found the Divine.

Janis Harrington’s collection of poems, Waiting for the Hurricane, won the 2017 Lena Shull Book Award, given by the North Carolina Poetry Society, and was published by St. Andrews University Press. She was a Finalist for the 2020 James Applewhite Poetry Prize sponsored by the North Carolina Literary Review. Her work appears or is forthcoming in journals and anthologies, including: Tar River Poetry; Journal of the American Medical Association; North Carolina Literary Review; Plainsongs; The Orchards Poetry Journal; and Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease, The Kent State University Press. Visit her at

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