The Body Full of Riddles

— Michael Schmeltzer

For instance, how does the sky look
when twenty children go missing

and not one of them
mine? Brighter somehow? Or darker?

Like the illusion of the young woman
looking away, the old woman looking

down, it’s impossible
to be both. Or the idea of god

as human and divine.
My children are here

and not there and the one letter
between the two words

has made a world of difference.
O merciful good, my awful god,

I’m sorry
for admitting relief. This makes me

monstrous and human
but never at the same time.

We tire of ignorance
we can’t control

so we insist
on making one we can.

What do you always answer but that never
asked a question?         A telephone.


Once, the school called to tell me
my daughter

had an accident
and my body as if by thunder

shook. So the sky changed and changed
back when they said

she was fine—a flash
to an anxious peace.

Once, I saw a man
shoot a gun at a man

I couldn’t see, and still
the other man died.

How does the bullet
riddle a body? How does a body

know the answer is blood?
My children were asleep.

We didn’t tell them
the whole story, left out why

we tell them to stay away
from the windows,

my children unriddled and whole, with holes
in their story

when they lie, these children who are
the answer to the lifelong question

of my body and my wife’s.
They question how

I knew what they did,
oh my god

children,
how do I explain this, I have been trained

to find holes in everything—
a poem, a headline, your brilliant

and beautiful shins. Oh terrible answer,
oh my god I’m so happy

they are here and can’t answer
why

they are unriddled, at home, wholly
present, holy

in their mania, their noisy
glee and miserable whines

all too much, an excess
like rows of teeth

in a shark’s mouth, oh god
why am I shredded

by their love, oh god why
am I so happy still? Oh my whole

children—
I’m so happy I could cry.


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