Twelve Days

Twelve Days

Twelve Days 1920 1250 Julie Weiss

For Julen

For twelve days
all of Spain kneeled,
heads bowed, hands pressed
in collective prayer,
hope from the hearts of millions
cascading into the borehole,
hope glowing around your parents’
hollow bodies like a halo.
On camera, their faces fell
in shards, a mess
piled at their feet,
and we were broken, too.

For twelve days
even atheists spoke of miracle,
how bones fractured after a fall
can defy science and cling
to each other, redefining
survival on their own terms.
Air could become trapped
like a butterfly in a jar,
seventy-one meters below the earth,
it could creep into a nose
or a shock-opened mouth,
could flit around a brain
for as long as it would take
the miners to dig the tunnel.

Maybe, just maybe,
a country joined at the hands
could summon an angel
that would open his arms
to shelter his two-year-old brother
who had plunged toward the center of the earth.

For twelve days
politicians stopped bickering.
Soccer scores lost their gloss.
Spanish salaries were enough
to live on, and instead of everything else,
talk turned to the conundrum
knotting everyone’s brow:
how a cup and a bag of cheese puffs
could lie, so casually, on top of
the compact mound experts predicted
you were buried under.

For twelve days,
those of us who were parents
scolded less and toiled
to keep our imaginations
in check, to keep our children
where they belonged, against us
on this side of the television set.
We vowed to forgo future trips
to the countryside;
paella cooks just as well
in the safety of our kitchens.

For twelve long nights,
we free fell through the holes
in our dreams, hands pulled above
our heads, crying, like children trapped
in an impossibility, but only until we heard
your voice: Don’t fret. Death can’t find you
down here in the dark.

On the thirteenth day we wept.

Header photograph © C.S. Young Jr.

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