W. D. Ehrhart  


for CJ, in memory of Jill
    Death comes knocking and the silence descends
like a black bird alighting on the windowledge
on a black night with no candles.

Yet everything continues: bottle time,
nap time, play time, bath time, story time,
bed time—only a brief confusion:
for a few days you asked for mommy;
then you stopped asking.

You can't know the black bird will sit
for a lifetime in your father's heart.
I watch him with you now:
the tall slender frame
bending over your crib like a willow;
the large hands hesitantly poised—
wanting to touch,
not wanting to wake you;
the soft searching eyes permanently puzzling
an incomprehensible absence
he will never let you feel
if he can help it.

Years will pass before you understand
the secret tremble when your father holds you,
just how much such a small child weighs—
but that's okay;
           don't trouble your dreams
with wondering. Be what you are:
your mother's daughter. Be a candle.

Light the awful silence with your laughter.
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    Copyright © 1981 by W. D. Ehrhart
Matters of the Heart, Adastra Press, 1981
This poem currently appears in Thank You For Your Service: Collected Poems, McFarland & Company, 2019
Copyright © 2011 - W. D. Ehrhart - homepage
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