December Morning Message: A Sestina with an Extra Verse
The sheet metal sky is thin and cold overhead.
Like propaganda released from planes, endless leaflets of brittle lace
Drop slowly down around me. They weave something like silence.
I once had a soul that could have deciphered their message:
A soul that was boyish yet clear—but now like an old hinge, it’s broken,
Though I’m only twenty-six. I stuff my hands deeper in my coat.
Before leukemia took her, my wife bought me this coat.
For a year now, the grief’s surface has stayed three feet overhead.
My queen and my girl, snapped in two like a shoe lace.
Now, standing here in the snowflakes, I’m deaf to any message.
I’m locked in my own silence.
I used to want that more than breathing: silence
With her. On our porch, she would wrap her arms around me like a coat
And while crickets buzzed in the grass, her arms gave me the message
That we were drowning in love, with crisis always hanging overhead.
I didn’t care about crises. I’d twine my fingers through hers like lace:
A vow that, as long as she was with me, I’d never be broken.
Can you give me one definition of broken?
Is it living like a ghost with lungs full of silence—
Or is it letting despair molder on me like decaying lace?
Is it holding on to a faded, ripped, worn-out coat—
Or is it always seeing sheet metal overhead
And always reading there the red scrawl of Death’s message?
I can’t stay warm, so I go back into the house. There’s a new message,
Blinking on my phone like a lighthouse beam that’s broken.
I never listen to the messages, the calls I miss—but I’m shuffling across the kitchen now. The grief sloshes heavy overhead.
Still the phone chirps at me, its staccato mocking my silence.
I wrap my arms around me and grab fistfuls of my coat.
My soul feels like a clump of fraying lace.
I close my eyes and see her in her wedding lace.
God Almighty, give me a sign, a word, a message . . .
Can’t you let me hold her again—let my arms be her coat?
Or can you at least piece me together, a million parts broken?
I’m choking as the phone beeps against the silence
And sends vibrations through the water over my head.
Thoughts swirl in my silence—as silly, maybe, as making rope from lace.
But I can’t help but wonder, pray, if a message is coming from overhead
As well as the land line. This wondering ghosts through the broken dreams hanging around my old coat.
Can God use a phone to reach me from overhead?
Can snowflakes be His propaganda leaflets of hope, dressed in lace?
Can He get my life out of the ditch, out of the fists of silence?
I lift the phone, praying for Your voice in this message.
Eyes closed, I hit the button and swallow, the air in my throat broken,
With trickles of hope dripping softly from my coat.
By Mary Faustina