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?

Advertisement

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.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla clash with military police in the Policarpo Paz Garcia neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Jan. 20, 2018. Following a disputed election marred by irregularities, incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez was declared the victor and will be inaugurated on Jan. 27. The opposition does not recognize Hernandez's victory and are protesting against the result. (AP Photo/Fernando Antonio)
“You will see many protests during his mandate...because Honduras hasn’t fixed its age-old problems of inequality, exclusion, poor educational and health system, corruption and impunity.”
Melissa VidaJanuary 23, 2018
I want to be able to serve the state better. I want to be able to serve more of the state.
Nathan SchneiderJanuary 23, 2018
Formed in 2011, The Oh Hellos' Christianity is one of their foundational inspirations, evident in lines like "the only God I should have loved."
Colleen DulleJanuary 23, 2018
People gather at a June 14 candlelight vigil in Manila, Philippines, in memory of the victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Philippine Catholic bishops called for vigilance against bullying, ostracism and harassment of gay people in the wake of the incident in which police said a lone gunman killed 49 people early June 12 at the club. (CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA)
“We are losing three generations of people, and we need to hear why,” said Bishop Mark O’Connell.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 23, 2018