They walked in pairs
searching north to south
and south to north
along the highway’s shoulder
where the scent of honeysuckle hung
The younger sister swore that she would find him
a patch of tamped down grass her clue
she knew, she knew
the sirens screamed
the searchers gathered at the scene
The older sister stepped up to the guardrail
—as firstborns do—
and gazed between the leafy branches
It’s only sisters now
A twig of hope
snapped in two
(I hovered over wild grass
and lingered above damp ground
below the tree tops.
When I saw you,
when I heard you cry,
I cried too.
Then I swept up and eastward,
silently and free,
The men saw all
that they were trained to see:
a thin young man,
dead by his own hand,
a belt around his neck
knees planted in the ground
face marred by insects
sodden by the summer rain
no ligature marks
no evidence of struggle
no broken bones
no foul play
all in a detective’s day
you don’t want to see,”
said the sheriff with the shiny forehead
as his minions wagged their heads
“Who are you,
to tell me
what I do or do not want to see?”
she spat and sparked
a fire in the air
One detective stepped over the rail
“When you say ‘ready,’
I will move this branch”
he whispered, motioning
She saw his body
as a mother sees
and scene by scene
the boy tumbled across
her memory’s silver screen
She saw him years ago
blonde head bowed
pink knees on the basement’s cold cement
small hands clasped
she heard his first impromptu prayer:
Thank you, God,
for turning on the light
Breathing in the holy
scent of honeysuckle,
she stumbled into night
It was not the fact that he was dead,
not the details that the sheriff shared,
not the frayed backpack scattering
her boy’s pen and journal on the table.
Nor was it the fact that he would never
marry, cut a vinyl record, father
his own boy, or grow old gradually.
Facts were not what knocked her to her knees,
not what sucked the air out of her lungs.
It was the probability that she
would live another thirty years, the chance
that she would almost certainly survive.
“…the girl got up and began to walk about” – Mark 5:42
Forgive me, Son, it’s time for me to go.
I have sat among the feverfew
beside this tree, the spot your spirit flew.
Like Jairus, I believed, but God was slow.
Your death short-circuited the sun and stars.
Noon was night. There was no lambent moon.
Yet Earth sustained her circuit and her spin—
Asters. Oak leaves. Hail. Tears. Snow.
Twice I sat the calendar around.
Then, a match-sized torch burned in my night,
and a tiny cloud reflected light.
I cursed that tree and got up from the ground.
You did not rise and walk. God is slow
and slowly tenders me the strength to go.
Susan Delaney Spear, poet and librettist, holds an MFA in poetry with an emphasis in verse-craft from Western State Colorado University. She teaches poetry and creative writing at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colorado. Her poems have appeared in many journals, and her first collection, Beyond All Bearing, is forthcoming from Wipf and Stock in early 2018. She serves as the Managing Editor of Think, a journal of poetry, reviews, and criticism, housed at Western State.