Pieta
A skein of lines broods     flows into a mother’s face 
among cribs     suddenly bent over death 
you sit with her in a small room that seems 
to be closing in     “the doctor’s with him” 
you hear yourself saying     to fill up the silence 
the shivering starts as a slight tremor in her hand 
as she stretches it upward past her face 
and then it convulses her into a sobbing question 
which can only be answered by an encircling arm 

her husband catapults into the room 
a white missile about to explode 
what is happening to his world 
everything is out of control     rolling 
like a speeding car toward a cliff 
the disaster numb within him 
caught in the chest     rolls 
in the brain like pebbles     like lumps 
of raw dough     balled into formless shapes 
weighing down a stomach of a child 
who has eaten too much on baking day 

“If there were only something that we could do” 
the doctor says     not being able to tell them 
that all the cpr     the sodium bicarbonate 
the ambuing of oxygen into his lungs 
nothing would be enough to make him awaken 
and be the Owen they have known 

when they hear “he is dead” 
they know it already     but hope 
that somehow it was all a mistake 
the feeling of guilt descends like a shroud     their shoulders 
too young     too thin     to handle its weight 
the grandparents come     and suddenly
the parents are quietly consoling them 
as if theirs were the greater need 
Owen was an angel     gone ahead
to pray for his family
gone into the sky     seeking oxygen
gone into autopsy
a fine white powdered sugar
a disposable cremation blown to the wind

they enter the tiny room where Owen lies 
wrapped in a white cloud of cotton     soft light 
just under ten pounds     a collapsed balloon doll 
burst in his one-hundred-and-fiftieth day 
with the face of his father     his fingers 
his toes with three voodoo adrenalin holes 
in his pin-wheel chest 
he witnesses his parents speaking 
to the coroner     signing the autopsy papers 
shrunken to duplicate     red ink on white paper 
unreal     asleep 
forever silent 


why     why     the young mother cries 
as when her suckling cub is stolen 
a lioness goes raging     tracking down 
the unseen enemy who dared to enter her den 
steal her prized possession 
what lay within the crib     what fiend 
that would embrace a baby so innocent 
in its slumber     a germ     a toy
the mattress cover     but no     no 
everything was in its place 
except Owen would no longer breathe 
laugh     suck from her breast 

the same flesh that responds to her husband’s caress 
whose eyes are flowers that perceive stars 
now are a churning quagmire of tears     lips drawn fine 
the down-drawn grief     face of our age flows into 
Pieta     mother     and between her knees life 
as her son in death 
pours from the sky