Amazing Grace: A Hymn at the Home
How sweet the sound, whispers Joanie, as her doctor
says, "he's better on the xylophone;" as the Pastor,
Reverend Eddie, pumps Amazing Grace by the aviary,
as the Deaconess, scorned by Joan as a Lutheran nun,
sings a deeper chest tone Joanie envies. She moans,
damn my cigarettes! Her only son's father, the worm,
fled when the kid was eleven. Her son left home a man
to wager war with men, so now she gulps at thinner air
& sorrow. When caged, a parrot forgets to fly much sooner
than Joan disowns her child. Who saves a wretch like me—
"Him flying down the Persian Gulf, his plane a Predator—
its missiles are called Hellfire—I pray that he bails out."
I once was lost but now I'm found—dead like the parrot?
Nursie, wearing rubber gloves, put it in the freezer.
Found—I pray that he will be. Found alive in time, or not.
She doesn't know if it's her heart or lungs or how to tell
her son about her dying. Through many dangers, toils
and snares...Now Joan is crying through her fingers,
but the Pastor pays no mind & carries on despite her sobs
& quavers; please let his whistle shrill at Abu Ghraib;
let his plane land safe, not mortared—homing pigeon,
diamond dove, my son! Coo & land on Babylon, other sons.
No, better he crashed below this world or spiraled high above.
No grandchildren, none! I've already come—are you in Mosul?
'Twas grace that kept me safe—or have you just bombed Basrah
& mothers waiting for their sons upon this earth thus far...
I spanked him when I had to, tied his shoes & now no mail
and grace will lead me home. Grown, he flew to lose, to lose
himself. I'll know his face though we've been here
ten thousand years. The large print hymnal notes
float up & one by one they swim the blue on wires
like crows bright shining as the sun; she's hoping
he isn't one of heaven's choristers to sing the tenor
line, we've no more days, her flattened EKG—not yet.
Days to watch the birds arrange the sky to our liking or
stop the organ's wheezing—to Sing God's praise & don't
be bitter (Joan rebukes herself): Jesus' mother followed
Him about, not waiting for His visits. Birds of the air—
they have their nest, the son of woman none, no cover
but rain, no address but the one the swallows blow,
& for his head a helmet made of straw. Wind bellows
persist as when we'd first begun & singing she goes over.