Loss knows me,
knows my body
knows my name
remembers my face
picks me out of a crowd.
It was a crisis.
I was a crisis.
I am good in a crisis.
The crisis ruined lives.
What is a crisis?
It is a stage in a sequence of events
at which the trend of all future
events, for better or worse is determined.
My crisis divided people.
I was the crisis.
A crisis ruins people.
As a crisis, I caused
my mother to fall to pieces
in white beds while I waited
in an orphanage, a foster home,
then away from her.
I have not found her
to stroke her head
after the crisis of myself.
They say she might have
survived the crisis if
I had died. Somewhere I am
dead. Still in crisis.
It seems I just forgot to burn a lamb
and a dove outside the Tent of Meeting
with a priest after I gave birth to my daughter
three years ago. The Old Testament God
gets the last laugh as no attempt has helped
to further increase the size of my family.
According to Leviticus, if I cannot afford
a sacrificial lamb—I can substitute two doves or
two young pigeons. Of course one is meant
as a burnt offering and the other is to purify
me from sin. I suppose my sin is of carnal
knowledge which lead to my daughter.
Or perhaps it is simply
the curse of being a woman.
As a New York City resident, I can certainly
attempt to locate two young pigeons. What if
I ask a pigeon its age and it lies like everyone
else on the Upper East Side? Somehow I think
the Co-Op board would have something to say
if I burned a live animal in my apartment.
Atonement sounds rather smoky.
And, I suppose, I could locate some sort of
priest to attend this ceremony with me.
Does is it count if the priest was ordained
over the internet? Is God digital?
These sacred observances––these complicated rules.
How to obey this written word
and my endless search for a son.
Carolyn Hill-Bjerke participated in poetry workshops around Manhattan for 10 years before attaining her MFA at Columbia University 2003. Her poetry has appeared in the Atlanta Review, Paper Street Press, and the Mississippi Review, among others. Carolyn has read at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan and has been a featured reader for more than ten years in the annual Dante’s Inferno reading at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Carolyn works as an agent in the film business and lives in Manhattan with her husband and daughter.