Thomas Aquinas prescribed fervent prayer,
and I do pray, but, oddly, a bird has been
my best medicine when I find myself shrunken
and absent, as I do each year as the anniversary
of my son’s death approaches. And so I turn again
to this: a dipper I watched in Zion’s Virgin River.
Sure, every photograph is an elegy to what was, but this photograph— which I’ve turned into my screensaver— of my son, dead nearly three years, has him suspended in mid-air He has just jumped from a rocky outcropping thirty feet above the shimmering water of Lake George that flashes silver and gold. The day itself is glittering with light
that has the feeling of being
excessive and there are (I’ve counted)
seven different shades of green in the hemlocks and cedars and white pines growing from the rocky soil of the island. My son is alive in the thrill of his airborne body,
though it is quiet in the photograph,
no cheers and whoops from his friends who are waiting at the top to jump, no sounds of the boats idling below, or the waves sloshing against their bobbing hulls. I will not see him cleave the surface of the lake and vanish with hardly a splash
and then break back into the light,
silvery water cascading from his hair and shoulders.
And I will not see him climb back up the rocks,
eager and intent on his next single-second flight.
But almost daily I give thanks
for this moment in which the past is gone
but never dead, this glimpse
of the terrible sorrow to come, but also
of something like an afterlife
in which his body, relaxed, calm, hovers
as if it’s forgotten its heaviness,
the air holding him fast, halfway between
two places at once, the good light of sky
and the ease of bright water that waits.
Robert Cording has published nine books of poems, the latest of which isWithout My Asking. He has recently published a book on metaphor, poetry, and the Bible called Finding the World’s Fullness. A book of poems and prose titled In the Unwalled City, which includes the poem in this issue, is forthcoming.
The royal palms bathe in the soft warm air of February and everywhere I look there is the play of glittering afternoon light—on store windows and metal bistro tables, on the well-polished always white Mercedes and Lexuses, on the sorbet pinks and oranges and lime greens of faux-Spanish buildings. The most ordinary things here seem