Winner of the 2011 American Poet Prize
The weight of the receiver in my hand:
the down bird in my palm first lifting you.
The counselor’s words: rehearsed, a burlesque bland.
The shift in time, the shift to looking through
her lens: today you are just one of two
hundred lost. My eyes fix on our bright fence.
I say your name, but you are no one new –
caught in an ancient book that she’ll condense.
I want her to discuss you in the present tense.
I want the gods to stop pretending love
calls the departed home. We called you
with our various loves, had hope, hovered
over still fields; made wind like the gods do
before they come unhinged, let their rage loose
on an unresponsive yield. Fields gone deaf
and dumb; unshaken, fruitless ground, unmoved
by a neighborhood of mothers who left
their own to find you – tables, like mine, set.
I want the gods to swallow their prayers
whole. Choke up my child like the Olympians –
a girl, unbruised by her journey down their
throats. I want her at my table: fruit, alms
that the gods, I see, can give or take – balm
for the irritations I caused, or they
caused; gifts between us or perhaps among
themselves – a girl that they’ll barter away.
I’m here. And I’m willing to talk, or trade.