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The Colors of Pain

for Daniel C. Roper, IV,
September 9, 1995 - December 4, 1995

Here is a more uplifting poem that I wrote
just 11 days after Daniel died.

Janice Roper, 12/15/95

reprinted with permission

Each minute is a string.
I must walk along its tension,
balance carefully, the concentration it takes
for a whole hour, then a whole
day, a whole week, tip toe
with wrinkled brow, eyes red and dry,
often closed and still
the continuous pain along my neck and shoulder
is a hand pushing toward
more time, black time,
time dragged down an endless cave.

The roundness of motherhood is
like a bud about to open.
Perfect beauty.
The open throated singing
can be mistaken for a scream.
Each contraction lasts a minute,
rising and falling like breath
and breathing is the way to make
the time pass, flattening the brain
to pain until the head crowns
and new life begins
in red profusion.

The new baby takes
first oxygen, calcium directly
through your blood. Once born is not
separated, your body makes
the milk he takes, and warmth transfers
between you.
He sleeps in your arms.
His cry makes you wake
like a bolt of lightning, part love part
instinct. No grogginess.
Everything is crystal clear
like a cloudless sky.
You feed him, rub the air
from his belly, dab the curdled milk
from his lips and drips from
your shoulder. Hold him some more.
He kisses your neck with
wet bobbing baby pecks.
He collapses in sleep. Every inch
of him touches you.

Time is a river
flowing quickly in his growth.
He eats more, sleeps longer,
wakes longer, looks you in the eye.
His smiles are the tickle of ecstasy.
Your love is pure and comprehensive.

Was it God's hand that turned off his breath?
Was God watching while his lips turned purple.
as his blood slowed and settled
mottled red beneath him? Did Danny see God as he
opened his eyes in death? Did he rise
above his body, watching people scream
in horror, run crazy beneath him?
Rip his clothes, beat on his heart,
press their lips against his mouth,
puffing in desperate hope for a miracle?

Danny, a miracle is your life on earth,
a beacon of emotion, a catalyst for unity.
We gather around your grave thick with
the agony that is love.
Strong enough to tear away walls built
long before you were even a dream.
Walls built from the scars
of other deaths, other separations,
plastered with bitter words,
misunderstandings, unbelievable injustice.

We breathe for you my angel, you
have reached through
these walls to gather pieces of the people
who love you, these pieces are moist
with tears, pliable like dough.
Molded together, they will be a bandage
on our bleeding eyes, bread to feed
our hungry hearts, breath enough to fill
the dark cavern of our skull,
breath to make us rise and live, even
with the weight of it, string the minutes together
like Christmas lights, gather us to sing
into the empty air. With bright colors of pain
we are trying to paint something
beautiful from this. God, we are all trying.

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