Two Sonnets for Stephen
Dear second-born whose narrow head was end
and apex of a winter day, your star
fulfilled our feast yet I in plenty fear
the starveling year. What grace your little hand
confers is cancelled by our mortal debt.
We all are Sisyphus, the endless climb
distorts the heart where punishment and crime
have equal genesis, unholy night.
Lighten our darkness, Lord. The laden womb
gives up its lamb, the cloudless eye is dimmed
already with foretaste of tears, and dread
the hydra-headed rises by my bed
turning his knife of grief. My son, my Christ
in diapers, must every kiss be cursed?
Angel and arbiter, my augury
of good, shrieking at angelus beside
my bed, what bell a word of mourning said
for Eden, ended by a breath? Argue
some virtue for tis little skull, by five
senses will enter sin enough to damn.
The fatal hand prepares scalpel or bomb
and flying miles and years remove my love.
Accuse me not out of your still blind eyes.
Your seeking mouth knows all your world and cries
already its own exequies. To crook
your finger knocks my heart. I pray no cock
marks my denial of your need. I must
be always host, my son, my nine months’ guest.
© Mary Stanley