By Mary Szybist

Spirit who knows me, I do not feel you
fall so far in me,

do not feel you turn in my dark center.

My mother is sick, and you
cannot help her.

My beautiful, moon-faced mother is sick
and you sleep in the dark edges of her shadow.

Spirit made to
know me, is this your weight
in my throat, my
chest, the breath heavy so I hardly
breathe it?

I do not believe in the beauty of falling.

Over and over in the dark I tell myself
I do not have to believe
in the beauty of falling

though she edges toward you,
saying your name with such steadiness.

I sit winding blue tape around my wrists
to keep my hands from falling.

Holy Ghost, I come for you today
in this overlit afternoon as she

picks at the bread with her small hands,
her small rough hands,
the wide blue veins that have always been her veins
winding through them.

Ghost, what am I
if I lose the one
who’s always known me?

Spirit, know me.

Shadow, are you here
splintering into the bread’s thick crust as it
crumbles into my palms, is that
you, the dry cough in her lungs, the blue tape on my wrists.
The dark hair that used to fall over her shoulders.

Fragile mother, impossible spirit, will you fall so far
from me, will you leave me
to me?

To think it
is the last hard kiss, that seasick

silence, your bits of breath

diffusing in my mouth

Mary Szybist, “Holy” from Incarnadine. Copyright © 2012 by Mary Szybist. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, MN.