Cradling Song

by Gary Percesepe

It's impossible to know at the start

how long you'll last, but that's no

reason not to start. Everything is

busy being born and dying, why

not us?


I once walked into a room that

held a tiny casket that cradled

a body six months old.


The father's name was Tom

and the last name King,

though looking at his wife

it was clear the kingdom was gone.


There had been a developmental birth issue

I'd gathered, moving around the room.

These were people I barely knew

at the church. Their baby failed to thrive.


Very rare, yes. Voices from all corners

of the room, yes, yes. Such a shame.

Heart goes out. She was six months

but looked ten weeks, she had doll's eyes.

Tiny, dressed in pink, with doll's eyes,

Unmoving, distant, fixed. Dead.


I don't know why I thought of her.

Baby King. That night, I had hugged Tom

and mumbled some words. He sat next

to me in choir. He was a mechanic.

He'd worked on my Triumph, fixed the

AC, did some rewiring. I didn't know

his wife. I left the room. There was

nothing more to say.


I thought of Tom today,

when you and I were texting

and you told me you

knew what I was thinking, what

I was feeling. How? I asked. How

could you know? Because we were in

a relationship, you said. I know you.


I know you, and you know me,

but did we know what we'd birthed?

Five months.

And where is it now, what tiny room

in what distant corner—oh, the questions

are horrid. Where did it go?

What killed it? I don't know.

I don't even know where to visit.


The old ones sing: we cannot care for you

or cradle or listen for your cry;

but separated by silence, love

will not die.


We cannot enroll you in kindergarten,

watch you grow

tall and strong, through middle

years and higher, your first love,

or drive you to college, or hear you

say to us, it's OK, you can leave me now.


I'm trying to sit quietly with this. Kate

called, and that was a small good thing.

I tried to tell her I was OK but she wasn't

buying it. How did I get such good friends?


I'd say to Tom now, and if I could, to his

wife, that there is one who cradles all

creation, where we come to rest at last.

Where we may place that which is dead in us,

but that your baby is beyond death now,

alive in heaven above. Your baby, I'd say,

breathes with your breath.