“Before the Healing” by Merrijane Rice

Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son:
for he is mine only child.
Luke 9:38

A devil grips my son,
shakes him like a mast
in sudden storm till bones rattle
and head beats the ground.
I cannot tear him free.

He is bruised and scarred,
but not from play.
I once pulled him blistered
from his mother’s cooking fire.
Another day, as I mended nets,
he collapsed in stony shallows.
I ran to hold his head above water,
cradle him till the fit passed.

At night, I wrestle
with his empty future:
He will never learn to sail or sort
a day’s catch on the shore.
He will never read in the synagogue
or keep a feast day in the shadow
of the Lord’s holy house.
He will never marry or worry
over children of his own.

I still believe. I pray.
I plead to know what lack in me
keeps us from compassion,
but scarcely dare to ask again
for what has been withheld.

By early morning, I am wrung out.
Silence hangs like a heavy veil.
I venture one more question,
father to Father:
If you had just one child,
would you do nothing to save him
from being torn in two?