May Triptych
by Isabel Chenot

I. on seeing WWI Photographs of Flanders Fields

It was not neat and green:
the fecal ruck and soot, the mangled artifacts
of love kept near the skin
like defunct portals to a tender mind,
the battered crux of lovers who had been.

There were no rows marked white.
Not that blunt eyes could see: angels a mother begged for
would have been there—but our outflanked sight
lacks angel-clarity.

What was the meteor
that struck the earth at Flanders (also: Normandy,
Naktong, Khe San, Fallujah, Garmsir …),
and turned its crimson peace to hellís ninth floor?

Freedom, and love—and the first sin.
God, loose the shards embedded in the seams
of all the splintered soldiers who have given
us their bodies—given
us their unexploded dreams.


II. to a mother, on burying her infant son

This is the mystery you knew before
when pain's knock sharpened through your skin
till life thrust downward; lunged, and tore
the nerve-terse cradle you had been.

Breathe deep, grip hard.
This is the most convulsive hour.
Eternal light is waking him.

How were the eyes and fingers, sinews, bone
sewn to him in that earlier dark?
You were his space, his flood, his element—
your blood was his kinetic spark.

But moving on your water was genesis' Spirit
making a new ark.

This is a kind of metaphor.
Remember it, when you commit him to the earth.

Remember, when he was obscure to you—
Love saw, and wrapped him in your warmth.
Love knitted you around him into 'mother'.
Love wove his lungs, enwombed from air.

Remember, when this life thrusts down—
contracting while the membranes tear:
Love gave you strength. Love gave him birth.


III. waiting for Spring

Because of Winter, there is Spring.
Because the flowers go
and trees lose everything;
because the raw air stings
animals to burrow.

Hold a seed in your fist.
Who would guess the rose?
Or maybe something amethyst
and pinnacled—who knows?
The cold ground concentrates a color, till it grows.

Because of death, there's something more to be.
Because a mother braces being against loss.
Because a soldier wants us to live free.
Because Christ walked through desert to a cross—

whatever falls back into dust

newborn, war-torn, time-buried—
waits for Spring.


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