Sean Thomas Dougherty


I am writing about the owl you point out hovering above the drive, like an apparition. You call me to the kitchen window to watch by your side. You hand me a sheet of paper with some scribbles our youngest daughter wrote. I try to read the secret hieroglyphics. What does this say, I ask our daughter. She says, “It is a new language I have invented but it is still teaching me how to read it.” Sometimes I suspect the way I feel for you can only be explained by looking at the way a giant green turtle’s fins slowly sway through the ocean. For the sound you trail is cerulean, blue ribbons of light. I trace the bruises the IV have left in the shape of Slovakia and Lesotho on your arms. More and more I suspect each day we live is many layered and this life we pass through is just one side of an ever folding and unfolding veil. Or the shape of a letter. The world is a line with many sides we are always writing and shaping each day. The afterlife? An alphabet is still an alphabet even if we cannot read the letters. Getting ready to work first shift today, I am startled how the birds start singing even before they can see the sun rise; it is as if they sense it there, just over the edge of the earth. I forget you are in the hospital, and I go looking for you. I search the children’s bedrooms, the downstairs couch, I begin to panic a bit. Remember when your feet first started to have the wounds that wouldn’t heal and you lay with your leg hanging off the bed, stoned on meds, how you’d leave our bed restless to sleep anywhere, in the living room, in the spare room, even sometimes on the patio’s wicker couch, and how our daughters—they were so small— would wake and run downstairs to find you absent and then search the house calling, like a game of hide and seek, pulling me up by the hand, come Dada find Mama, like missing pieces of a puzzle, and how when they put us back together, you touched groggily like reading Braille your fingers lightly to our faces. 

Sean Thomas Dougherty is the author or editor of twenty books including Death Prefers the Minor Keys (2023 BOA Editions) and The Dead Are Everywhere Telling Us Things, winner of the 2021 Jacar Press Full Length book contest, selected by Nickole Brown and Jessica Jacobs.  He works as a Medtech and caregiver for folks with traumatic brain injuries.  His website is