It's been three years since my friend Chi-chan died, at age seven, after an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant. "Chan" in Japanese is the diminutive form of "san," kind of like Lil' in English. Used for children, especially girls. The poem refers to a hidden skylight in the hospital's small chapel called Teusler Hall. The skylight can only be accessed by ducking under a low-hanging wall. It is too narrow for someone with broad shoulders to stand up inside.
Careful when you make that face, I say
It might freeze up like that
That’s okay, you say
I’ll just pour hot water on it
You, the bed, the world entire
Mother moon encircling
Love's gravity stirring the soul's deeps
Never alone, you were
Never left to your own devices
A father's marrow
Red sun hovers low on the horizon
Love pouring down into your bones
Terrible gift you gave to him
A father's burden
and greatest honor
Truly this is bone of my bone,
Flesh of my flesh
Tongue-tied love's calligraphy
smoothly penned in blood
+ + +
Vaulting autumn sky
Mother daughter tears streaming
Querying God’s grace
Everyone else got to go home
Why me? Was I bad? Did I sin?
Child theodicy like a roundhouse kick to the solar plexus
No, no little one, no and a thousand times no
Neither hath she sinned, nor her parents:
but that the works of God should be made manifest in her.
He is always with you, Come what may, never apart
Your tears rend His heart
That all you got up your sleeve, Chaplain?
This the full extent of learned divinity?
All for this?
+ + +
words fail, falter, fall out of joint and so
I show you the secret place in Dr. Teusler's Hall
the only way in is to be small
the kingdom belongs to such as these
tunnel dug straight up into the sky
tongue tip darting out as ever
small enough to stand tall
here alone, beloved child, autumn cascading quick-silver
over your bald crown
heaven's delight a mantle on your slight, titanic shoulders
+ + +
The blanket on your death bed
Pooh gazing fondly at a flower
"Thank you for blossoming for me."
Oh, my kingdom for a cup of hot water…