“What It Takes”

The Tongues of Men and of Angels

Robert A. Fink

What It Takes

He eased his hand from hers
and kissed her hair, walked out
to the reflection pond,
the moon on the water
female, pliable as a fertile egg

At his back:  hospital walls
black as the castle keep,
a light burning in the only window
that mattered–his wife propped in bed,
staring at the space between her arms.
Her babies waited in a glass womb–
tubes and monitors, a pump
risky as a gypsy’s concertina.

He unbuckled his sword,
laid it hilt-first toward the water,
bowed his head, and kneeling,
offered the nape of his neck.
Unacceptable.  He lifted up the football game,
his jaw broken in three places,
the head of Christ appearing
in blood on his jersey.
The letter of introduction from the King.
The key pressed into his palm
by the Homecoming Queen.

He had known all along what was needed.
He took off his letter jacket,
the coat of mail, the hair shirt,
then lifted the ribbon over his head–
a silk remembrance blue as the sky
falling, a cluster of thirteen stars
knotted at his throat.
Beneath the cerulean dome,
a golden anchor linked the heavens
to his world, five-pointed
as the star the marshal unpins from his shirt,
blood soaking through a sleeve,
his long-barreled Colt still smoking.

He held the medal one last time,
shut his eyes, and slung it over the water.
He listened for the splash,
then turned to the window, his wife
risen from her bed, laughing,
holding out his newborn sons.