Roman poets put skulls in their love poems – the mortal
with the immortal, the dark in the brilliant death-light; the beautiful plum falling
from its long branch, then sweetly decomposing. The excruciating
parting of our two bodies, that was necessary. Your tiny body – you can’t even drink
my milk – sleeps in my palm. Holding you, my thin hand is just a cradle
of bone: If I could pour light into a cup, raise it to wet your parched mouth …
Hold on, hold on, I say. Your life starts with one word, sing, a prayer candle set
floating in my womb, yes, one word, then another. Hear this: Jug. Rice.
Tears on stone. Broken-necked lily. Hold on. Winged baby. Sing. While you’re
in the hospital, my kitchen is cursed: My hands are afraid to break apart
this bloody meat, to mingle my fingers with warm sinew and tendon,
to pat spice and salt into flesh. My grandmother set a place for the dead,
if her soft-footed brother might drop from heaven into the night kitchen,
looking for bread or sweet milk, the way the living look for love. What’s missing
here: the smell of bread rising, of rummy yeast, of fennel and pale cabbage
wings, leek and kale, cardamom and thyme. My grief doesn’t let me eat
with the living or dead. I whisper to you: Rain on the lake. Mist. Swallows calling.
Hold on. I won’t lure you home with bread. I call you with words, words. Someday,
we’ll return to dust, but the bones, our bones, will always shine in the dark earth.
That ancient shine through your silvery skin: Come on, baby, sing. Sing. Sing.
Winner of Ruminate Magazine's 2012 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize
"This is a memorable poem, powerfully realized and emotionally true. Among the many virtues that recommend it are the vivid images, as well as a complicated music arising out of a deep unconscious word-counting and word-weighing. One can sense the poet sorting the music of thinking and feeling from the chaos of an outsized undifferentiated passion. But above all, it is the passion that I love about this poem, and how that passion is canalized by discipline to create a work of profound beauty."