What could’ve been so bad is what my mother wants to know.
An eroded edge, the news story says, breakers in a fit below and a girl
jumping on the eve of her 18th year. Moonless, the leap from the western
hem of my city, a metropolis named for the saint with his hand outstretched
to the spider, the vole, fence lizard, a dog’s notched ear. What would
St. Francis make of my mother’s firestorm faith? Would he shake his head at sin,
then damn the girl for her unforgiveable ache? What if the soul,
I want to ask, refuses its fiery sentence? What if, after landing, it ravels
between kelp bed and shark teeth, angles inside a bat ray’s wake?
What if it clings to a humpback’s fluke, holds on through fathom and breach?
There are rules, mom says, for the ever-after, an endpoint that’s earned.
Even for a girl in the updraft. Even if she pauses, glances back
where waves narrow into the bay, roll like beasts beneath bridge span
and car horn, back, past signal lights ricocheting from the end of a pier.
What if the ocean was known for its mercy, an ocean St. Francis
would walk through, if he were here, his face to the salt spray,
ankles lost to the shock-cold surf. See how he’d stop, how he’d
bend to the ebb, to the bleached and the partial. See how he’d marvel.
-- Sharon Pretti lives in San Francisco, California. Her work has appeared in Nostos, Spillway, Calyx, JAMA, The Bellevue Literary Review, and other journals. She is also an award-winning haiku poet and a frequent contributor to haiku journals including Modern Haiku and Frogpond. In addition to working as a medical social worker, she teaches poetry groups for seniors living in nursing facilities.