Rachel McKibbens - Portsmouth, OH (A Dirge in Four Parts)


A Mother Bargains with a God Not Listening
Dear God, I cannot offer my life. I have five children.
My life is not mine. So I offer you: 
My blood engine father. My curdled mother.
The sweet elderly couple across the street.
The woman in aisle nine ignoring her sticky child.
The sticky child. The homeless veteran with the empty cup.
My uncles Gilbert, Phillip and Vinnie, full of needles.
Lonely aunt Jane and Lisa and Becky and Meredith.
The next person who smiles at me at the gas station.
The crossing guard, his four grandchildren.
All of them. 
             All of them.

A Mother Explains Death to a Three-Year Old Child
Remember when I told you how, when the trees lose
all of their leaves and the sky holds grey
and all the animals retreat to their darkest place,
it means winter is coming?
 
 Do you see how stained the sky is? How dark the clouds?
See how Ingrid has lost all of her hair? Her empty crib?

Do you feel how cold it is this morning?

The Three-Year Old Speaks Logic at the Funeral Home
Ingrid is in always winter. She lives where it is winter all the time.


The Poet Explains Grief in Allegorical Terms
He is a small boy, pale as a bar of soap.
His voice is the song of wires,
the gush and whir of an oxygen tank at 8:39 a.m.
I am not sure I can trust a boy like him.
He provides no warnings; an old bursting water pipe,
a sick syringe. He is King of the Dirty Baptism.
The Unrelenting God of Nightmares,
polishing the knives to stash in the medicine cabinet.
Replacing the whiskey with photos of home. 
He feeds dreams to my unslept brain: 
Last night, I dreamt you broke free of the soil,
your skin greased in heavenly light. I could hear
the blood inside you. Your life rushing back to you
in waves of defiant joy. You sat down
at the kitchen table. When I asked if you
were real, you started eating from
the vase of flowers. You said, The ghosts
that move through you
            have only one name.

thanks to The Bakery