Dear Bishop by Carol Quinn

for my stepbrother
(May 3, 1963-June 20, 2012)


Dear Bishop: Do not say Death is not
the worst thing
with the body
before you, the widow you didn’t know
before you in your church.
                                Look at the hills.
The seeds are already in us. They are
what we become: the blowing field, the stalks
rising and falling until they are just chaff.
We also become the sun they rise toward.

Bless wit that turns away the wrath
of the Yahwist and John of Patmos,
Alpha and Omega, Genesis and Revelation.
For I give you another law.

Bless six-foot-two stepbrothers
who used their strength
to lift small children off the ground.
For perfect love casteth out fear.

A backhoe has dug out just enough space
for a single coffin. It’s like the way we slept
in the house that held eleven people.

Or nothing like it. The backhoe showers
its red dirt over him, but
he still doesn’t seem far away.

In the hills of Calabasas
the dead are as close
as sprinkler systems and landfill.

Except ye turn, and become as little children—

We would lie down on the earth.
We would roll down these hills as we did
when we came to visit his mother’s grave.

Love is not a desire for immortality
so much as a desire for the immortality
of others—
                                that they might never suffer and die
and have to leave us.

But even the light loses its way
and scatters,
                                turning red
like the soil of Calabasas, red
like light through the lids of our eyes.

In the ashes of this air, it can’t go on forever.


Carol Quinn’s poetry has appeared in Western Humanities Review, The Cincinnati Review, Pleiades, River Styx, Colorado Review, and other journals, as well as the Women Write Resistance and Hot Sonnets anthologies. Acetylene, Quinn’s first book of poems, was the winner of the 2008 Cider Press Review Book Award.