Sean Thomas Dougherty

My favorite words are small like dirt

Rain that turns to sleet across the muddy trench along the rural highway. Words like plow or hay, sun, or shape. My favorite words are small like dirt. My dead come around this way. They wear the clean pressed shirts we buried them in, their favorite Sunday dress. My favorite words are small like dirt, like dig, like going down to the bay and watch the anglers cast their lines. Words like steel, and echo, like holler and hole. A dark we peer down, calling. Anyone down there, we say? Waiting for another voice to sing. Words like mine, and lamp light, head lamp and edge water, lake or grit, stream, or sinker. Song, or  shard. Words like weed, the ones my daughter picks, wilted stems with blossoms, and gives them to her mother. Words like wife, and hold. Words like nap, and lung. Not words like impossible. Not words like chemotherapy. My favorite words are small, they taste like dirt. Have you ever eaten dirt? The sweetness of red dirt. Breast milk or bother. Milk bottle. Milk glass. Not cataract. Not insulin. Not neurodegenerative. Not pernicious. Not amenia. Well amenia is a beautiful word. It sounds like a flower. A blood red flower. That turns pale, like a lily on a windowsill in winter light. Snow falling, and the old couple out walking, arm in arm, up a hill. When I turn away they’ve become clouds. Sky. There is a window in the sky. When we die, we walk right through it. My daughter tells me it is a small window. Did I tell you clouds is her favorite word.

Sean Thomas Dougherty works as a Med Tech and caregiver for people recovering from traumatic brain injuries in Erie, Pennsylvania. More info on Sean can be found at

A Song for Sean

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