O Beautiful, Empty Placeholder
in faded photographs regal
you balance long cigarettes between
your fingers like Greta Garbo
but you were not there to lift
my mother’s veil from her eyes
or tie her children’s shoes.
When Cancer called to you
in the dark, you rose, saying
Here I am, send me. When her heart
could not pump through the breast,
the lump, the tumor, you took it all
upon your shoulder.
O Absent Appendage of Grace
how can I thank you for offering
yourself, a sacrifice to the leviathan?
Laying down your life for this woman—
grandmother of the blue wedding
dress, Wizard of Oz books,
cool downstairs mudroom,
winding garden path?
Through your stilled blood
she is healed. Through your death
we too are redeemed from dark claws—
afraid to swim in the ocean, afraid to climb
trees for the splitting of rotted limbs.
O Exalted Extremity
you live on forever in the pseudesthesia
of evening when my grandmother reaches
with both arms for her husband
and in your miraculous glory finds him
warm and tender, a lonely raft
in the unholy ocean waves of terror.
Without you, the rest of us dream
long into the ocean of skies—
two-armed Eves reaching,
always reaching, for the branch
just beyond our fingertips.