Of the Body–Fearfully and Wonderfully
for Leticia and A.G.
“angel date” the book said, but
“he’s not an angel” I replied.
And I refused to write it.
People can no more be angels than they can be trees.
Totally different species.
One can’t become the other.
And then I pictured Daphne and Apollo racing across a blank page
Him reaching, her fleeing
and her fingers have become branches, she’s rooted
And above, in the margins, the angel babies
are grinning their cherubic
faces in a grisly chorus.
Fat faces with wings, disembodied.
Surely that can never be the fate of that too, too solid flesh
I believe in the resurrection of
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
Repent and believe
That one day you will rise again.
Oh that this flesh should resolve itself
Not to dissolve but to walk again
Shall these bones live
Shall these dry dry bones live and dance and sing
Run and skate and hold me once again?
Surely they must surely
I do believe.
Angel of God my Guardian, dear
watch over and guide us now and at the hour
when we shall not become like you
But shall once again have hands and feet and a heart that beats
And breath that blows in and out
of lungs that are cradled in a cage of ribs just like those from which
was made from next to Adam’s heart
Just as you once snuggled for nine long months beneath my ribs, beneath my beating heart
Flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone
pulsing with life.
Further up and further in we shall run and swim and climb and fly fleet-footed
Up the final waterfall to the first garden
Where we shall find not a sword but a tree with branches spreading their welcome
beckoning us to sit and eat
And we shall cease to flee
And we will not become the tree nor the guardian but,
welcomed joyfully in,
Eat the fruit of the Tree of Eternal Life without end
In glorious, re-formed, Bodies.
I wrote this poem after a conversation with my friend Leticia, whose oldest son, Anthony, died by suicide. The first stanza is her words, slightly paraphrased, and the second was my comment to her, again, slightly paraphrased.
It feels a bit awkward to me that the poem came out in the first person, like I’m appropriating her experience; but it’s the way the poem insisted on working. And, too, parts of the poem draws on my own experience of losing our second child, Francis, to miscarriage; so the maternal voice in my mind switches between her voice and mine from stanza to stanza, but it all comes out as one, unified first-person voice.
Yesterday was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day and many of my friends were posting remembrances of their lost children on social media, so that was very much in my heart as I was writing. This poem is for all parents who have lost children.