- Saint Sorry, and: Love Poem
Because she had no money and becausethey called it a charity shop, the woman whose ten-
week-old baby had finally died though of whatand why it couldn't be fixed she'd never be able to understand,
she asked them there, the people at the charity shop,would they give her a dress to wear for the service she only had jeans,
and because they told her no, my mother for years
would quietly bring our secondhand clothesthe twenty-odd miles to Portage where if people were not kinder
in the aggregate, they hadn't yet floutedthe basic laws of human. Saint Vinny's down the road she never
talked about why add to the shame whichmeans her trips to Portage were to our minds just another of my mother's
minor oddnesses. I don't recallwho finally told me the story or how long she had been dead by then. [End Page 3]
Saint After-the-Fact. Saint Sorry-I-Must-Have-Slept-through-the-Part-that-Mattered. And the time
I wouldn't eat it, food she'd cooked becauseI'd asked for it. And every callow rudeness to a check-out clerk
I made her watch, like smearing mudon linen. If these are the screens imagine the things I did that I won't talk about.
That grocery cart abandoned in the parking lot?When you see me pushing it back to the store think penance in a faithless age.
"It's not so much the terror when the world as theyknow it is broken in two (six-year-olds, two-year-olds,
snatched at the border and carted off to god-knows-where) it's what dawns on them later: this isn't
some terrible rupture in the-way-the-world-is-meant-to-work it's the way it has always been (you can see it in
their faces) and will always be. Their eyes go flat.So that's when I had my money shot I filed the JPEG went back
to our dreary motel (plaid carpets!) and ordered a doublescotch. Camera in the bottom of my shoulder bag glad for the dark."
In the novel I love, years later, whenthe killing has not stopped but only shifted to other fronts the girl [End Page 4]
who of course is no longer a girl and knowsas once she had only surmised how much
of the wreckage is beyond repairthe girl who is older now and for a moment distracted turns
and with her shoulder dislodges a glass thatfalls as glasses do to the floor but just before the floor
on the other side of the globe the boywho of course is no longer a boy and yet endowed
with the grace it takes a boy to catcha fallen object, say a shiny piece of
cutlery, while it's still in the airextends his arm and does.
Of Paradise, wrote Mandeville, I cannotproperly speak, for in all my travels I was not there. [End Page 5]
Once, my very best darling, the sea and the land were all one mass
and the light was confused and hadn't found a place to rest. And Emma, love,
my sister's eyes were not yet there to hold it all together since she hadn't yet been born and I
imagine though I never thought to ask them I believe they must have been afraid,
my own poor bid at being born so nearly having killed her, not my sister no our mother though
I see looking into your own two eyes that one as a matter of course entails the other. And
I don't even think I can properly call it love what I demanded what I had in mind I
wanted something mine and what you wish for if the gods see fit to grant it marks the limits
of your soul. And though the years have scoured the worst of what made me unfit for the gift...