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Belly Song

By Kathleen Hellen

I sit in the front row of
bleachers -- cheap seats for greater grief.
My son

the tribe in his ribs
the strength in him, keen, huddled
runs through the hits, breathes
through the pale ghost of stitches
these games that go long into hard victories.

Who knows how long we have them?
when sirens call to the streets
when one sends back his fatigue

another's enlisted.

The bones of an open humvee. The bones
at a roadside checkpoint.

It might be that we swallow them:
A belly song. A flag sent home
A rosary like dog tags

A triage of crows flies over
My son

packs up his cleats
The fog of his breathing surrenders
He limps to the car where I tender
his wounds. The bones
of a cradle, breaking.

Added: Thursday, July 3, 2014  /  First appeared in Yellow Medicine Review (Fall 2009). Used with permission.
Kathleen Hellen

Kathleen Hellen is the author of the collection Umberto’s Night, winner of the Jean Feldman Poetry Prize, and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Loved Mothra and Pentimento. Her poems are widely published and have appeared or are forthcoming in Barrow Street, The Massachusetts Review, The Nation, North American Review, Poetry East, Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner, the Sewanee Review, Southern Poetry Review, Witness, and elsewhere. Recipient of the Thomas Merton poetry prize, the H.O.W. Journal poetry prize, and twice nominated for the Pushcart, she teaches in Baltimore.

Other poems by this author