The Common Good
April 2010

Songs of the Thieves Who Hung On Either Side

by Maryhelen Snyder | April 2010

The first thief and the second.

The first thief

For years the energy of my body came to me to spite me
like a plague of insects that cannot be put out.
I remember the days I killed them by the thousands,
pinched and pounded their hard green bodies. Each morning
 
there were more of them humming and spiraling in the light.
After a mouthful of food and brief sleep, my body
blew itself up again, moved itself out looking for something
to steal for this life of survival apart from myself
 
who wanted only to die. Finally the authorities found me
and lifted me up over all these others, high enough
for no food or sleep to reach me. Here on the edge
of welcome oblivion, this one beside me has made me his brother.
 
He has given me a room in a house I did not know to desire,
and when he spoke of a father, I wept for the first time.
 
The second thief
 
The powerful ones are having their way again,
for certain they think, as my draining fingers
become bleached and brittle as driftwood;
these once agile fingers that slipped their silver
 
out from under them. Like infants, they insisted
their stolen power was a birth right. Their invented God
made a law against thievery, and another (I see now)
against being his son. That one I had not broken
 
until this moment. Like him, I knew they had not stolen
my power, but only my blood. Like him, I knew
if they took me down alive I would resume the work
my fingers know by heart. But I did not think to know
 
I was beloved. Now all the stealth I mastered wants
to throw itself away like a stolen coin tossed into a river.
 
Maryhelen Snyder is a psychologist and poet living in Northern Virginia. Her memoir is No Hole in the Flame.
 
Image: Crosses, Attitude / Shutterstock.com
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