ANGELUS MORTIS


She arrived in a pink box
with clear tape sealing each seam,
laid out on a cardboard backing
and tied in place with white ribbon bows.
White tissue paper had been wrapped
carefully over each of her hands
as if in some funereal rite.

My husband, who must introduce
himself to you as your son each time
we visit, worried that she was too heavy,
but I knew that the weight
was what you wanted to bear.

I began to wonder which of your babies
we were bringing back to you.
One of the four who died?
One of the four who grew so far
beyond you? The plaything
they never allowed you in the orphanage?
The afterthought of an ageing mother
you once were, now snug
in a pink snow bunting
embroidered with butterflies
and matching hat? You took her
at once into the crook of your arm,
not needing to tell us
who she was because you
had recognized her immediately.

Though you used the word “doll”
easily enough while we were there,
we heard you greet her gently
after we had left the room.
No matter how we talk anymore,
we cannot calm you. You were waiting
for the one who would keep silent,
the one who would teach you
to be open-eyed, unblinking.