She gave birth to him, which was enough:
His father took him one night and broke
her heart so much she gave it away
to many men, all of whom lacked the fire
of Danny St. Claire, lover and gambler
who called her a whore behind Bobby’s back.
His mother may not be visible now
in Henrietta Murphy’s image
in the photo Danny’s friend gave Bobby.
No need to pretend she survived his birth:
her love shattered here. In the New Congress
Hotel bar, Christina Jones working in
her hip-high hose told Bobby she was his
father’s wife after Bobby’s abduction
and Henrietta’s death on the tracks.
The clergy buried her and no one knew
of Christina, the apostate among
the faithful, married to the bigamist
widower. The throng encircling the grave
said their own prayers and she said nothing.
The night his father lost his life upstairs
Christina took over when the other
working girls led Bobby to the back room.
Her every word was balm for Bobby’s grief.
Danny’s putative sins did not matter,
only his happiness with Christina.
They required a life of their own, she said
that night after walking him to her place,
the one she shared with Bobby’s father’s ghost
now that Danny was free to haunt the streets
of Seattle . . . Who knows how long? Not me,
she smiled through her tears. Yes, dear reader, tears.
She could have been Bobby’s elder sister.
She had hoped to hear the Holy Rites said
over the coffin of Danny St. Claire.
Bobby listened to her tell why she left
the church in the wake of her refusal
to believe her sin could be forgiven
by one-third of God, His Son. Danny sought
the Holy Ghost’s forgiveness. Christina
knew his soul received God’s grace when blood left
Danny’s body. Bobby could not believe
his father or mother communed with God.
Who claimed perfection for poor Jesus Christ?
Now Melindra Collins told her sorrow,
her abortion. He listened. She told him
the reason. Freedom, she said, for the child.
How can you be free if you’re never born?
And Melindra answered, My child is free
from the death it may have been forced to live;
and I found my calling: Saving mothers
from the endometriosis riddling
the womb cut out of the body to spare
a life. She would never have a child now.
That did not matter. Nor did the church.
Melindra would never tell any priest
because she did not believe she had sinned.
Melindra Collins thought she might love
Bobby St. Clair. Why? Because he listened.
(10 February 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander