Let You Fly
Panis angelicus, we sang,
Sister in her wimple and veil,
sweeping her arms in slow arcs,
shaping the Latin with full lips.
The soul a circle she drew
on the blackboard, grace the side
of the chalk shading it white,
sin the eraser, rubbing
grace out, turning the soul black.
You had to make a perfect act
of confession in case you died
in your sleep. Death might come
at any time.
My mother heard me crying,
sat on my bed in her nylon nightgown,
held me: I’m not going to die
for a long time. Other families
were the ones with problems.
When she cried, she always
locked the bathroom door.
Old photos show her in a spotlight,
singing with a big band before the war.
When your time comes to leave the nest,
I hope I’ll let you
Bread of angels, melting in my mouth,
tasting of her voice.
Susan Okie is a poet, a doctor, and a former Washington Post medical reporter. She received her MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College in
January 2014. Her work has appeared in The
Gettysburg Review, The Bellevue
Literary Review, the Journal of
the American Medical Association, Passager,
Hospital Drive, Cider Press Review, and Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and is forthcoming in Gargoyle. Her poem, “Perseid,” was chosen by
Michael Collier as the first prize winner in the 2012 Bethesda Poetry Contest. Susan
is a clinical assistant professor of family medicine at Georgetown University
Medical School, teaching classes in patient interviewing and clinical ethics
for first-year and second-year medical students. She is married to Walter
Weiss, a former medical school classmate. They live in Bethesda, Md., and have
two grown sons.