Baby Angels

This one from the iron lung,
this one from the tornado,
this one was never born:
I look at the Christian names
of the children on the tombstones
in the cemetery at Buena Vista,
sweet meadow rolling
to sheep, green lawns, and corn.
You go there if nothing
else is happening in your life.
You go there if you own a plot
to see how the grounds hold up.
When I see the baby angels,
why do I think of vaccination day,
that long uneasy line, and always
the girl with thick glasses
crying on her fat brother’s arm.
Part Cupid because they are intentional,
part Bacchus because they are frivolous,
the baby angels have trained
the cotton-mouthed mad dogs.
They own barrels of rusty nails,
rectangular country ponds
and their clouds of dark gnats.
And clearly, these children are here
for a reason. Some could not keep
their mouths shut. Their tongues
entered the infectious pencil grooves,
lapping up the beautiful names
of diseases. This one fell from a mule.
This one did not wear her galoshes.
All, on occasion, ignored the warnings
so the baby angels are all theirs now.
Fat with a grief that is distant
as they are faded, wings
spread for a wind strong enough
to lift them, they blurt out
a little water into the marble cups
of their hands and stare
with hard eyes over the pointless view.
—Rodney Jones