Gertrude Complex

How child-like is dirt, and then
death, how my child
asks about death or dirt and I want
to say something that makes sense.

If I were a really good atheist, I would
want him to know the earthworm
he holds out on his pudgy index
finger is something like, king-like, of a king

and all of that. But we both know,
you and I know, or maybe only I think
this isn’t any comfort. Give me
a way to say yes, there is a window

and yes, when I die I will watch you,
keep watching you, and I won’t let
even this worm near that little face. Not
even any God or dusty breeze. Not any.

Give me a window, not metaphor,
not ghost, not particle or microbe, not
shimmer of the perfect: window. I want to see
someone watching. Because that is all I want

to watch, too— be allowed to
watch. When my son asks will I die
before him and I say yes, if I were
a good atheist I would let this rest, talk

about dirt, of dust, of the smallest breath,
the lasting footprint. No. No.
Not this time. This is what we do,
what I do, maybe not what you do, what

I do as a mother. Play it long
and shadowed until: Belief
comes in the next generation.


Sara Moore Wagner is a Pushcart nominated poet whose work has appeared most recently in Lingerpost, Reservoir, The Wide Shore, and the Pittsburgh Poetry Review. Her chapbook, Hooked Through, is forthcoming from Five Oaks Press in early 2017. She lives in Cincinnati with her filmmaker husband Jon and their children, Daisy and Cohen.