For months last summer I saw her at every street crossing, every time the bus jerked
or the subway screamed. Flying was unbearable. Like breathing through thick flannel.
She showed me flicks in slow-mo of the last moments. Pain: crushing, brief. Then
darkness. Then darkness. Then darkness. It was peeling that off like a rind each time.
It was after you died. It was a cloaked figure from folktales I was too young to believe.
She stepped out like a stripper from behind your closed casket on that tacky square
of Astroturf, while my mother cried and pushed us away. I stood with the live-in nurse
who witnessed it. The rabbi kept babbling about something. Then prayers. In the caesura
of a psalm, she stepped out and crooked a finger and I stared and after that I could not
stop seeing her everywhere. I don’t think you understand. I mean everywhere.
Malach HaMavet: “Angel of Death” (Hebrew)
Egg, Seed, Pupa, Spore
“Everything else is dead, killed by the cold, or mutely alive in any of various still forms: egg, seed, pupa, spore.”
-Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Everything tells me to curl inward, to winter,
Store up, shore up, wait for it to end.
But the trees are blooming anyway.
Starlings shriek from the heady depths
Of the magnolia, heavy with last night’s rain.
Your wiggling body, needing milk,
Fastens me like a button to the rough cloth
Of this moment, and the next one, until
The urge to mute myself passes, drop of ink
Slithering away into the puddle. Not gone
But pale as flame that has reached the point
Of perfect burn: fuel equal to its hunger.
I’m not there yet. Orange, yellow, blue:
The candle of my mind flickers, erratic,
Unable to find steadiness, chasing
The hot wax straight down the wick.
We aren’t built to hold still. You grasp
One hand with the fingers of the other,
Level a gaze that makes me tremble.
Today your dad and grandpa are fixing the deck
while I watch from the nursing chair.
Curled against my chest, you sleep
as close as you can get to the warm belly
that carried you crammed among
my organs until you came wailing
out between my legs. “Came out”—
I mean to say, I pushed you,
with muscles that still ache
two months later. There was blood,
vomit, excrement. To be away from you
makes me frantic—my body knows
what’s missing, aches for you as urgently
as you root for the nipple. Visceral:
from viscus, internal, intestinal,
stickiness, heft: your small weight on my chest
while your father and his father rip up the old boards,
strip the rot, pound nails, sturdying
this house against the coming snows.
That would be the easy place to end
the poem: a new family shoring itself up,
cozy, safe. But that isn’t where it ends.
Nothing just comes into this world.
Your heartbeats echo on my breastbone
as you sleep, our muscles
pumping blood we used to share.
My body will pull towards you always now,
as my mother’s did, and my mother’s
mother’s, and nothing is what it was before.
Lisa Rosinsky was the 2016-2017 Associates of the Boston Public Library Writer-in-Residence. She holds an MFA in poetry from Boston University, and her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Cimarron Review, Mid-American Review, Measure, 32 Poems, Hunger Mountain, and other journals.