March Prompt #10: The Chilean Skeleton

THE CHILEAN SKELETON

March Prompt #10

There was nothing to do but baptize it—

God forgive me—that tiny dead thing.

It was still warm, still damp with its mother’s

blood. They were afraid to wash it,

she said, afraid the water would kill it

before they could get it here, to save

its soul. The least they could do, they said.

She kept crossing herself, the grandmother

who brought it to the church. She kept

crying, afraid the girl had sinned, afraid

she herself had sinned. I did what I could.

I blessed her. I lighted candles for the girl.

I washed the little thing in clean water,

sealed it with the cross, wrapped it

in a linen cloth. I offered to bury it,

but the grandmother said they’d see to that.

It’s what women do, she said.

MOONS

MOONS

 

1.

New moon at sunset,

caught in the branches of the oak—

Full moon at midnight

dazzling the skin of snow—

Thin moon before dawn

rising in Earth’s darkest sky—

you are the sign

of every woman growing old.

 

2.

All myths repeat themselves

in vision and in dream—

Now that I am waning

into the crescent C—

Cry, Crone, Crypt—

I am convinced:

every myth is true.

 

3.

Artemis, moon-bow of my youth

bends back into the winter dawn

and comes to me where three ways meet.

Her lamp casts shadows on the way.

She gives me one of her hounds—

a small yellow dog who watches crows,

wild dog who understands what death is for,

who wakes to foxes barking in the dark.

O: The Magnificat Antiphons, part VII

O: The Magnificat Antiphons, part VII

 

7. O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,

the hope of the nations and their Saviour:

Come and save us, O Lord our God.

With us—where else would you be

except everywhere?

Those galaxies, universes

bubbling into being,

stretching out and letting go.

Photons, quarks in their crazy flavors.

Magma flow, the frozen layers.

White shells and bones.

All the acorns buried under leaves.

The burning horses, stray dogs.

The toddler with brain cancer.

The addict under the bridge

staring at the river.

The black man, shot dead

even as I write these words.

With us.

The woman grinding the last of the grain,

drawing the last bucket of water.

If you’re not with us,

where are we?

And if you are with us,

where are we?

Where?

Emmanuel.

O Come.

TO MY SISTER SUE

TO MY SISTER SUE

November 29, 1955—June 27, 1993

After you died, I determined to live

more worthy, left work I was not

sure about, took up my pen.

 

It’s been twenty-four years.

I’ve spiraled back toward something

maybe like god, but not

 

the one I thought I knew,

for how could that one

have let you die despite

 

our prayers. How could it

allow so damned much pain.

The pottery monk you gave me

 

stands with his folded hands,

beautific smile, next to a jade tree

in a green pot. Your photo hangs

 

on my study wall, your face

pensive, dark eyes gazing

toward something I cannot see.

 

June 27, 2017

THE PLEASANTEST THING

THE PLEASANTEST THING

He can sing the last word of every line—

the swing song I sang to his father,

that my mother sang to me.

 

In his small world, the garden

is still green and the wideness

he sees is safe. “Turn up your toes,”

 

I tell him. And I push him

on the orange soles of his shoes

and he laughs. Later, we’ll have

 

lunch, and maybe he’ll take a nap.

I can protect him from bees,

from sunburn, from sharp knives,

 

from tumbling down the cellar stairs.

Not from overturning boats,

from hunger and guns. Pushing

 

the swing, singing away,

I think about grandmothers

lifting children above the waves,

 

breaking the last bread,

huddling behind the last wall.

Their strength, their tears.

 

What can they do

but hold tight and die too.

There is no fiercer love.