At the sight of your breath
at the sight of your humanity
this cold is more than we can bear.
Months ago we drove to Jackson,
He drove me, actually,
in his nice black car,
and we wore sunglasses
and he recorded the music
I played at the church that morning
with his phone
(even though the night before
he heard the same thing
a hundred damn times, in practice).
The drive lasts for six hours,
three there and three back,
and we will drive again next week,
and then I don’t know when,
but I know that it will happen
Those drives are so long,
and in all those hours,
three there and three back,
we talk (he listens)
and he never tells me
that I am
and he never tells me
to shut up
and I always wonder when
I always wonder when
he will tell me
“stop, you need to stop”—
but he just lets me talk
and I am frightened of
I will say if no reminds me
of those things
The men who taught me
hope were barely any more
than a couple of kids with
organ shoes that thumped
together in bags slung over
their shoulders, always.
They smiled clumsily and
didn’t always meet my
eyes when we spoke,
all of them at times
only whispers in a crowd,
straining to be heard,
yet at a moment’s notice
they shoved the clutter off
a bench in a storage room
and dusted off the keys
so they could sit and
speak for God.
Three men step with the grace of air
into an upstairs room, slipping between
the bars of the windows to bend their
backs over a cot with stained sheets
and a shuddering form, arms twisted
over her head, chest unmoving as the night.
They reach in, grasping out the fragments,
inspecting the shrapnel between translucent
fingertips, light shining through and
reflecting off the edges to reveal holes
she herself could not have known of –
bruises, slits, and tears through which
the light leaked, seeping through the
years to leave a vacant shell of tiny gaps,
but which within a wounded spirit leaves
a shredded husk, a murderous abyss.
With hands as firm as a foundation,
eyes as sharp as steel, the men would
scrub each shard with the edges of
their robes, in silence, always, daring
not to speak of what they understand:
Before the night is out, they will bend
their heads over another form just like
this one, worn edges to be bound, and
somewhere a psyche so carefully stitched
together again has begun its unraveling.
But, as a bone, it fuses stronger upon
its healing, each stitch more aware than
ever of its own vitality, and these men
need not fear that they will run out of
thread or that a pricked finger may bleed.
Perhaps in your unraveling, you’d notice
how very lightly they press, the tears
that spring to their eyes upon the sight
of another pile of shards heaped together
in the faintest corner of your heart,
how white their robes stain each heartstring
so cautiously unknotted, with such a strength
that it may burn at first, but with a twinge
that aches forgiveness and continual repair.
These men soon fade and do not wait for thanks,
appearing to our eyes as dreams of mending.
We never danced,
but not because
you didn’t offer.
And although my
feet still ache to
leave the cold floor
and my hands grasp
at air for something
to hold, I can close
my eyes with the
knowledge of what
still may be.
Do you remember music?
Not that racket when you throw
your hands on the keys,
wringing your voice out of its shell,
stomping the pedals, cutting your spirit
with chords that cringe with every dissonance—
but your mother’s song, crooning love
into your dreams where you rested
before you could even say her name—
your father’s drawl
as he clasped his hands
together over yours—
hymns drifting over
our heads as we walked,
hand in hand, behind the chapel—
You’re too heavy
to carry, though
your soul is only air.
There’s a nighttime
in your chest, where
a sun set far too soon,
and once a dream
where now a nightmare nests.
I promise I hold
the light of dawn;
you just can’t see it
I consider the shadows
under your eyes, embedded
like scars, red-rimmed
but you asked me to wipe them
once, and the tears
you wept on my shoulder
didn’t burn half so much as
the ones I watch you swallow
just to get through the day.
The child lies in bed asleep
and so she cannot know,
beside her head, her father prays
that she might wisely grow.
For health, he asks, and courage too,
through trials she will face,
and hope to know there will be rest
when she has run her race.
With that, he sleeps, and cannot know
that in the quiet peace,
above their heads, a Spirit prays
and never does He cease.
I knew the light could never fail
When, finally, morning came.
Despite the darkness I had sought,
Christ found me, in my shame.
There in the midst of sin, I’d hid,
The shadow as my shield,
But found myself defenseless then,
My trembling form revealed.
Rays struck my eyes, which I at once
Feared they must blinded be,
Yet realized after that brief pain
That finally they did see.
At first I saw only my wrongs,
Each judgement which I failed,
But then grace overwhelmed the sight
And, like the light, prevailed.