My first lie was before you were conceived
and I prayed that if you were a girl,
you must have Jeff’s hair,
because all my years as a little girl
I had dreamt of having just that hair,
waving soft back and forth,
all the time knowing God does not
take a grocery list
he just does as he pleases.
I should have never prayed that.
The second was after John was born.
I told my brother that you were John
and had decided the world
was not ready for you,
so you waited to be reconceived
and then born as John.
Everyone loves wise babies,
and it came to fit John, with his
enveloping smiles and circumspect glances.
I should have never said that.
Later, the boys asked for a baby sister.
I cannot remember what I said out loud,
but inside I said that I was tired
and maybe it was time for a dog.
I should have never been tired.
When Jerome was his tiniest self,
he slept in my arms at two in the morning.
His skin palest white, eyelids translucent;
in my delirious early morning mind,
he transmuted into an angel
that other angels would soon carry away,
I squeezed him,
and would not let myself sleep
to guard him from the powers of eternity.
I should have guarded you that way.
So it came to me today,
as I headed to the garage after work
and thought about going for a pedicure,
like a half moon, both empty and whole,
how grief cannot be pinned down
as one thing or another,
but only both and all,
and how the last twenty years
since you left
were both empty and full,
and now that the boys have grown,
how the emptiness has opened before me,
bald, and without moderation,
realizing you are not here.