“By that excruciating death, He descended below all things, as is recorded, that through His resurrection He would ascend above all things. Jesus Christ died in the literal sense in which we will all die. His body lay in the tomb. The immortal spirit of Jesus, chosen as the Savior of mankind, went to those myriads of spirits who had departed mortal life…”

“The Sacrament—and the Sacrifice,” by Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in General Conference, October 1989

The Poem

La la la la laa sol,
sol la la do la laa sol,
sol fa tehh, sol fa tehh
fa-sol fa fa teh fa sohhhl.

As she frets, I try to calm her,
“It’s okay.” Words with a smile
like snickerdoodles. “You can stay
all night, if you want.” She mumbles
in response, but if she forms words
they are no language I remember.

She casts herself one way, then another,
each edge of the bed a precipice—
disoriented, perhaps ashamed,
realizing she is alone with me.
Above her, my hand slides across
a plastic headboard with a damp cloth.

Fa-sol la la la la laa sol,
fa-sol la la-teh do la laa sol,
sol fah tehh, sol fa tehh,
sol do teh teh sol tehhhh.

Outside her room, the world becomes
a late-night medley of workaday chimes:
fingers failing to type gently on keys;
the creak of rubber wheels crushing
dust bunnies into cracking linoleum;
an old man dropping a diamond ring;
the brittle voice of his 50-something
daughter; a security guard’s jangling
clutch of powdered-metal keys.
A buzz grates, as metal doors
clang awake and apart.

Laa sol… laa sol,
sol fa fa fa fa faa faa.

Her dander rustles about me. I greet it
like a baker accepting coins coated
in cookie crumbs from sticky fingers.
I lather her mattress with vinegar,
the floors and counterspace too.
I send her IV pole rolling, thudding
against a lime-green couch. My mop
joins the rise and fall of key tapping
from a nurse in solitude and a guard
tall and musclebound. Grown boyish
in rehearsed gentleness, he leads
the old man’s wheelchair. Our minds
oil paint with maroon the vinyl-covered
gurney disappearing moments earlier
beneath an exit sign garlanding
the corridor. All eyes fall shy with grief.

Returning to the mattress, I stretch out
a fitted sheet, hauling up the padded
corners, commanding them to accept
the fabric’s tight embrace. I lay out
a flat sheet, brushing the creases
flush with gloved hands. I am certain
she has left,

until I nearly drop a clean pillowcase
on the wet floor. As I snatch its bleached
cloth from the bed’s edge, she casts again,
bronzing my forearms. Now she is young,
infant incandescence at play. Twirling,
she giggles as I fuss with fresh linens.
Then, sneaking out through the window,
she leaves us all pining. She rises timeless
into a sky filled with everlasting children.

Laa sol… laa sol,
sol-sol fee laa tehhhh.

Poet’s Notes

I’m sharing the above poem, based in part on actual experience, as the final piece in my Lenten creative writing series. It was actually completed a month prior to Lent. An academic journal courteously rejected it in a timely fashion, so I am able to share it with you during Holy Week. Here are the other pieces in this series:

  1. If Jesus Took Satan’s Offer
  2. A Trinity Within the Stone
  3. Spectacles in Glass and Stone
  4. Rage Against the Anointed
  5. Jesus, We Say That You Are…

The italicized stanzas in this poem are a fixed do solfeggio rendering of the melody to a beloved Primary song: The Still Small Voice. I find this to be one of the most beautiful, and yet downright spookiest, Primary songs.

Thank you to everyone who has given these pieces consideration. As the weighty and often dark images of Lent give way to a triumphant Sunday feast, I wish you a Happy Easter! Your thoughtful reactions are welcome in the comments section below. What have you thought of these Lenten posts? More generally, how does it feel to arrive at Easter this year?