Susan Okie

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 fly.


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.



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