Freddy, Dead at Nine Months

Sometimes Ma, in her extremity,
weeping privately over the washtub,
senses my presence, feels that I'm near,
calls herself a fool. But she's not mistaken.

I *am* there behind the stove. I am the heat
on her brow, my privilege to tarry,
suffered to loiter as I couldn't in life,
moonbeam, magpie, gust in the slough.

I am not alone as she fears, nor unhappy.
No chip on my ineffable shoulder. Rather
a rich air of communion, buoyance—what
you feel when your heart swells. And
there *they* are—Ma, my sisters, isolated,
stragglers, each with her own reduction:
*should have been me, could have been me.*
Staggered, drifting, aimless as cattle
in a blizzard, heads lowered, numb,
the horizon hopelessly obscured.


—Sharon McCartney, The Love Song of Laura Ingalls Wilder