[audio:https://theotherjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Telling-My-Beads-1.mp3|titles=Telling My Beads]

I fell asleep
with the rainbow rosary around my neck.
Twisted and tangled and caught—
the wires bent and the beads slipped free
in the violence of a sleep I can’t remember.
I see, first, that the cross has broken away,
is lying on the bed while the rest
remains against my collarbone.

I had been wearing it for inspiration,
pressing my lips to his small silver form.
Feeling the tiny twist
of his body in metal:
head with curve of hair,
arms like splinters, little
nub nails, the hard ripple of cloth
around his waist, the feet just an instant
under thumb or tongue.

I catch a bead as it escapes.

In a shine of plastic I see
all colors blending, choosing
to exist. I am trying to think
of people far and near whose lives
are flaking off, piece by piece, whose
bodies have rarely if ever felt sacrosanct,
as mine has in moments when time does not blister
and war and hunger are not reaching, ready
to pull, but Lord, I am thinking of myself.

I am thinking of your promise not to leave me.
My mouth is an ache, speaking as he spoke,
holding his tiny body in its fusion to
machine of slow death, suing to him
for company, for comfort, for his flesh
and blood, touching his feet as though
they are large enough to cling to.

The beads all around us,
refracting light, yet I am pinioned
to the man.