Fearfully & wonderfully

By Stacey Forbes

My preacher brother
free-climbs and fishes 
the ocean in small boats.
Once, in a kayak, he caught a
young blacktip shark.
The two of them thrashed
like an angel wrestling 
with flesh and my brother’s
thigh was wounded. A hook
in the mouth hurts, too.
He knew the angel
in the story wasn’t him.
He felt the weight
of original prayer in his hands
and released it. My brother
doesn’t run from pain.
Holiness hurts sometimes, 
he says. Just enough to wake
you. To make youremember
you swallowed a spark
on the day you were born.
We are light, chasing light.
Follow the hawk
that follows the sparrow.
We are called to walk
with all that hums and howls
and crows on the earth.
Joy is not made
gently. Imagine the fury
and beauty of flight.
Imagine swimming
in warm, dark bodies
of water with stingrays
and cottonmouth snakes.
My brother has done this
and more with his sons.
He touches the holy and
the holy touches him.
Nothing that lives can dig
the divine from its heart.
I have a picture
of my brother on a climb
where he came very close
to falling. He hung 
there, fear and wonder
alive in his eyes, 
laughing over the black-
foot daisies and butterfly weed
four hundred feet down.
Dangling from the face of God.

Stacey Forbes won first place in the 2021 Plough Poetry Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2022 Fish Publishing Poetry Prize. Her poems are published or forthcoming in Terrain, The American Journal of Poetry, Carve, and Split Rock Review, among others. Born in the Pennsylvania countryside, Stacey now lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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