Mama swollen with you when Butchie died,
his head crushed by a red truck,
setting the stage for his echo.
Today, you call to thank me for the hard candy,
chamomile and lobster bisque I sent
to soothe your throat slit from ear to ear
by the hip Sloan-Kettering surgeon
who yanked out your voice box
and handed you a microphone.
Cigarettes, they say.
I say, caused by your searching
to find your voice among four sisters,
a mother in mourning and your old man
who taught you to box when you were five,
Prance, bob and weave. He taught
you to waltz one Yuletide eve
at the end of his leather belt,
the buckle clipping your ear.
Startled by your rasping, electronic voice,
I am the one who chokes and cannot speak.
But then I realize the Butchie voice is gone.
And I hear hints of a younger, unformed voice,
still yours, chanting your responses,
kneeling on the marble altar steps
in black cassock and white surplice,
Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam:
To God who gives joy to my youth.