On the Death of Your Middle Son

The Greeks and Romans believed it:
that the swallow, the mysterious bird darting
between trees, skimming the surface of fields,
carried the souls of dead children within their breast
a liaison between the living and the gods.

What is it that I want to tell you now of
dying children and birds. What comforts?

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Outside the hospital window black crows flutter
across power lines, stare over parked cars and automatic doors.
You sleep for minutes, poised like a scarecrow.
You build a nest of hospital sheets around him.
You feed him with spoons and the nurses smile dutifully.

Our silence is broken by the chirps of complex machines.
I follow the waves of light and numbers that only doctors understand.

There is no peace in the dove; no fear is stirred by vultures.
I watch you fly slow circles around the bed, brushing away
white coats perched by the door. I want to tell them
about swallows and the easing of souls from their mother’s arms,
how the Greeks and Romans believed it.

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