now you are darker than I can believe
it is not wisdom that I have come to
with its denials and pure promises
but the absences I cannot set down
You were the brittle membrane
between those years and all
that came afterward—our mother
candling the egg in which you floated,
calling you from your windless cave
where you lay curled and ripening,
your eyes tucked shut.
But you turned as you neared
earthlight, leaned into the breach.
Now you are darker that I can believe.
Who gentled you away?
Who held your face, guided you
to dream among the trees?
Or was it a tearing, a bloody escape
as father drove the streets
looking for the damned fool
doctor who’d be drunk as usual,
the coat Mother had wrapped herself in
already stiff with the sea of you?
It is not wisdom that I have come to,
knowing she kept that coat
hanging in the dark of the closet
until something, years on, ate it
clear through, she’d say, and even
then she had no notion of how sad
it was she’d kept such a thing,
and told the story as if it were
not a story of first death, not
a kind of hymn, guileless, blameless,
with its denials and pure promises.
You are the swimmer far across
the lake now whose wake folds in
behind you, as you ply your way, arms
lifting, lifting—then faltering, to turn
to where I sit battened against
what I’ve heard—the sound
of an innocent dropped
into open waters. It is not terror
that you’ll once again drown
but the absences I cannot set down.