“Save the Human Race” by Christine Potter

Christine Potter


Although she never did before, my mother lies.
She doesn’t have dementia. She answers questions

like someone drinking white wine at a dinner party,
pretending to have read the best-seller: Of course

I went to church! There was a skirt, she says, and
a dress—the same pattern? Red. I wore one of those.

The one we tried on Friday? I ask. A silence.
She takes a breath, relieved: Yes! The secret she

doesn’t have is safe. My father has been counseled
not to argue with her, or has his hearing aid off.

I think he’s going to say North Korea is planning
to nuke Hawaii, where my sister is on vacation, but

he’s into economic inequality and arthritis instead.
At least I don’t have to explain why I believe this is not

the worst time civilization has ever known, remind
him to take his pain-killers, cite the Civil War or

the Black Death. He’s in a good mood. He tells me
about the diversionary mission he never flew with

his Air Force unit, the medical discharge just in time.
I feign surprise; he’s shared this secret with my sister,

not me. So now we both know, I type into the email.
Dad wouldn’t have been one of the few survivors.

I think about not being anything at all, a missed beat,
a bright white screen with nothing on it. I hit send.

Outside, little brown and grey birds peck at the feeder.
A young hawk, mumbling his hunger, misses them

and takes off. And a jet in the cloudless sky is a silver
brooch on a white ribbon, up so high I can’t even hear it.

from Rattle #45, Fall 2014
Tribute to Poets of Faith


Christine Potter: “About ten years ago, when my husband and I were making music in a high Episcopal church that was much into incense and bells, I sat in the choir loft and felt the connection between poetry and Scripture. It was a visceral thing, an awakening. In fairness, I may have been slightly oxygen-deprived at that moment (they were really into incense and bells there), but I still think of the two together. I believe in God and I believe in His presence here on earth in Jesus Christ. And I write poems. I think the spirit that makes poems happen is holy, even if the poetry is utterly profane. And even if you’re not choking on clouds of frankincense when you write it.”

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