To Hildegard

The tenth child, your parents gave you to the church
as tithe; I don’t know if I would do the same
had I ten, twenty, a hundred to my name. In our church,
the young families have begun to foster local children,
taken from mothers who are high, forgetful, taken from days
spent strapped in a car seat in the middle of an empty room.

One child has lost all of her words for love, another has lost
the correct shape of his head. He does not know how to hold
himself up, unaccustomed to free movement, to being held.
The State likes blood families; if mama shapes up,
she’ll get them back next month.

You see and hear, The Lord is holy in anointing
the dangerously stricken.

Born with a closed fist, I have a blue-collar sensibility
for giving. I count my children as mine. A child asleep
in each bed, innocence nested in every corner of my house,
careful packed, as if for travel. The day has no end to its asking.

You speak and write, The Lord is holy in wiping
the reeking wound.

The Lord, when he spoke to you, Fragile One,
was as a brilliant light, permeating your brain;
here all of the lights are out, except for the afternoon
cloud-choked sun, persistent in offering
its white light through drawn blinds.

Renee Emerson

Renee Emerson is the author of Keeping Me Still (Winter Goose Publishing 2014). She lives in Arkansas with her husband and three daughters.