by Patrick T. Reardon
She broke my arm when I was a baby.
It wasn’t my arm but call it an arm.
It mended crooked, at an odd angle,
thickened, clotted, stiff instead of supple,
a wrinkled butterfly wing, an antelope limp.
I could not swing a baseball bat
or brush a lover’s hair.
I still have the broken arm.
My brother’s hurt was worse. He died of it.
She tattooed her scripture on my spine, her
gospel proclamations on the inside of my
skull, her dire psalms on the bottom of my
right heel, on the sweep of my right hip,
black etched lines, leaking, insinuating.
The tree grows out of my
chest, another from my
forearm, my jaw, my
left shin. Syrup tapped,
dripped, fermented, sold,
re-sold. A forest where
Abel kills, Noah drowns,
the Messiah leper never
gets the ghost back.
Let me open the apartment door of her
limping mother in the kitchen, baking
bread, breaking bread, the afternoon
sun jeweling soil and backyard dung
and growing things and creeping things
and the newborn and the dying and the
dead. Her bread was sprinkled with flour.
Two candles under a throat to bless away.
My brother used a nickel-plated
revolver instead, a blessing of
the endless white.
He was a wall
anger and pain.
You try to live in that home.
He wanted to stomp-dance
on the harridan nun’s grave.
Now, with his somber bullet,
his ashes are curb muck, roof
dust, grit in the hop-skip girl’s
hair scattered in the wind.
No dancing on his grave for
anyone who hated him or loved.
Patrick T. Reardon is the author of eight books, including “Requiem for David,” a poetry collection from Silver Birch Press, and “Faith Stripped to Its Essence,” a literary-religious analysis of Shusaku Endo's novel Silence. Reardon, a former reporter with the Chicago Tribune, has had poetry published by Silver Birch Press, Cold Noon, Eclectica, Esthetic Apostle, Ground Fresh Thursday, Literary Orphans, Rhino, Spank the Carp, Time for Singing, Tipton Poetry Journal, Under a Warm Green Linden and The Write City.
His poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016 and 2017. His novella Babe was short-listed by Stewart O’Nan for the annual Faulkner-Wisdom Contest of the Faulkner Society. His Pump Don't Work blog can be found at http://www.patricktreardon.com/blog/.