What I Meant to Say

Wendy Babiak's Visions and Revisions


Juvenilia: Evidence

My daughter, who is 13, when she believes in God at all, is usually angry at Him. (I’d say Her, but usually her anger is directed at a Patriarch, so Him fits.) She’ll say, for example, about the fact that my father died on the morning of my first wedding anniversary, “Yeah, nice timing, God.” And I was thinking about this recently, and remembered this old poem, included in my college’s literary magazine from my junior year, which is evidence not only that I can sympathize with her anger (though it no longer holds me in its sway), but also that I used to use commas at the end of lines.

The Scavengers

Someday, when I am nothing but old bones —

my hip, like a dinosaur’s thigh, jutting

from a boulder, my shoulder left alone

among rubble, rocks, my teeth cutting

nothing but mold, and all these bones

whitened by ages of suns and waters running,

when my last bleached bone is beached

on some ancient shore, and every core

and solid place has been bored and breached

by a gluttonous worm

 the gods will want more.

And I will offer up my old bones, saying

Take this, all of you, and eat–there is no more.

But those damned insistent deities will say

“Quit playing! We’ve watched you for a thousand

years as you took your time (such sloth!) decaying.

We’ve watched your flesh rot, eyes, tongue,

ears, all your atoms danced away to feed

the ever hungry universe, yet we fear

you’ve held something back we desperately need.”

Ah, I’ll say, you must mean my heart.

So you, in all your eternal greed,

miss that little thing? I kept it from

the start preserved in hate and disillusion

in hopes that you would spare me that one part

left me in this nothing. Pardon my confusion.

Take it, then. Take it, my last Communion;

though it’s bitter, and heavy, and smooth

as a stone. Eat it, take a bite, break a tooth.