A skein of lines broods      flows into a mother’s face
among cribs      suddenly bent over death 
you sit with her in a small room that seems 
to be closing in      “the doctor’s with him”
you hear yourself saying      to fill up the silence 
the shivering starts as a slight tremor in her hand 
as she stretches it upward past her face 
and then it convulses her into a sobbing question 
which can only be answered by an encircling arm 

her husband catapults into the room 
a white missile about to explode 
what is happening to his world 
everything is out of control      rolling 
like a speeding car toward a cliff 
the disaster numb within him 
caught in the chest      rolls 
in the brain like pebbles      like lumps 
of raw dough      balled into formless shapes
weighing down a stomach of a child 
who has eaten too much on baking day 

“If there were only something that we could do”
the doctor says      not being able to tell them 
that all the cpr      the sodium bicarbonate 
the ambuing of oxygen into his lungs 
nothing would be enough to make him awaken 
and be the Owen they have known 

when they hear “he is dead” 
they know it already but      hope 
that somehow it was all a mistake 
the feeling of guilt descends like a shroud& their shoulders
too young      too thin      to handle its weight 
the grandparents come      and suddenly
the parents are quietly consoling them 
as if theirs were the greater need 
Owen was an angel gone ahead
to pray for his family
gone into the sky      seeking oxygen
gone into autopsy
a fine white powdered sugar
a disposable cremation blown to the wind

they enter the tiny room where Owen lies 
wrapped in a white cloud of cotton      soft light 
just under ten pounds      a collapsed balloon doll 
burst in his one-hundred-and-fiftieth day 
with the face of his father      his fingers 
his toes with three voodoo adrenalin holes 
in his pin-wheel chest 
he witnesses his parents speaking 
to the coroner      signing the autopsy papers 
shrunken to duplicate      red ink on white paper 
unreal      asleep 
forever silent 

why      why      the young mother cries 
as when her suckling cub is stolen 
a lioness goes raging      tracking down 
the unseen enemy who dared to enter her den 
steal her prized possession 
what lay within the crib      what fiend 
that would embrace a baby so innocent 
in its slumber      a germ      a toy
the mattress cover      but no      no 
everything was in its place 
except Owen would no longer breathe 
laugh      suck from her breast 

the same flesh that responds to her husband’s caress
whose eyes are flowers that perceive stars 
now are a churning quagmire of tears      lips drawn fine 
the down-drawn grief      face of our age flows into 
Pieta      mother      and between her knees life 
as her son in death 
pours from the sky