When I release her again, gently, to her crib and the solitary darkness
of her separate room, I pray over her what anyone prays over a child—
hopes she will escape the same sorrows I have, and the ones I have not.
I grew up believing that if you didn’t give it, God would take
a tithe, so I uncradle her small body from my arms, and brush against
the paper crane mobile; the birds rustle together, dry as the December leaves
hanging still, here and there, on the sweetgum tree bent low over our yard.
These birds her father folded for her, each creased by his callused
guitarist hands, and bent to a shape like he bends strings to music.
Permanent flight pose, they seem penitent, hanging over her, completely
out of reach, unable to harm, unable to be harmed. By faith some
are saved, by faith some are torn by every broken piece of this world.
I lay her down on her back, because the books say you should, only to have her
squirm and turn over to her belly. What people believe and what they do
are two different things—anyone can tell me the right answer, when I ask them
about faith. So this is something I do: ask for asking’s sake, and take
her chest’s steady rise and fall as answer.
Renee Emerson earned her MFA from Boston University. She is the author of Keeping Me Still (Winter Goose Publishing, March 2014). Her poetry has been published in Tar River Poetry, Boxcar Poetry Review, The Indiana Review, and others.