They see her as a genie in a pager.
They don’t know how she was dreaming
in the Sleep Room, the Serenity Prayer—
the whole thing, not the AA clip—
taped next to the phone, next to the clock,
next to the Bible, next to the Qur’an,
under the loose vent ticking shut, falling
then rising again. A shredded Styrofoam cup,
a futile fold of paper caught in the gap.
Outside isolation, she wraps herself in green,
booties, gown, a mask spreading
her breath back over her lips and chin,
laminated wings, small as etched coins.
When she crosses from fallen
ward to falling boy, they are waiting,
rubbing the fluorescence from their temples and eyes.
They think someone is here, that something
will happen, but she has arrived to bring
the nothing happening to the something
that is, a boy with a washcloth between his legs
and an arrow’s vane splitting his mother
and his father to either side of his head.
His flesh beads like he is running hard,
a plastic fan swinging like a searchlight. And
she thinks he might want to talk to her,
if he could, tell her how the point came
flying from its string, from his hand
to his brow—why should he speak to her,
his throat free from the vent,
his eyes calculating the angles of draft?
And she’s sorry to see the tube go. Soon he’ll tuck
his arms to his body like tiny wings, his chest
caving, his toes touching like a baby’s.
His hand reminds her of a high school boy
and his Escape cologne. After their dates
she didn’t bathe and slept with her nose tucked
in her hand. Arrow boy’s lungs soar on their own
over the helipad and the baler on the farm,
over his metallic Mustang where just last week
he was doing his girlfriend in the front seat,
her thigh sending the volume screaming,
the music, the light from the dome, shooting out,
speeding into a dark that did not exist
in a town full of steeples and shocks.
Even now, they think, the Lord could
unwrap him from himself, peel back his
forehead and free the arrow with His hand.
Her prayers, they think, will complete
their faith. Soon they are spirits themselves,
responding only to cadence and heat. Her
cadence. The pitch the Lord might hear
“despite the thing they done that got
their boy this hurt.” Dad thinks he launched the shaft.
Or was it Mom’s remarriage? The words God’s will
falls to the floor toward their blurring wisps.
Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities,
nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
can separate us from the love of God.
The boy is already the guardian of this message.
She knows he will have to be starved,
his soul drawn out like egg whites from their shells.
The mother is ready. His father still barters. And she
sees the boy rise on invisible scapulars,
already looking at the old couple
like strangers and at the woman holding their hands,
she the torn seal of an envelope blown back behind the door.